Northamptonshire County Council leader admits she fears losing a referendum on council tax

Northamptonshire County Council leader Heather Smith. (Picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Northamptonshire County Council leader Heather Smith. (Picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Northamptonshire County Council leader fears losing a referendum on a council tax increase despite suggestions the public would be willing to pay more for public services.

A 4.98 per cent increase in council tax was proposed in its 2018-19 draft budget published yesterday.

The figure includes a 3 per cent precept for adult social care and means the projected council tax income for 2018-19 stands at £292.86m.

Any increase in council tax of or above 2 per cent (excluding the adult care precept) would have triggered a referendum.

But though the public consultation indicates a willingness among Northamptonshire residents to pay more council tax in return for services, county council leader Heather Smith seemed unwilling to pay for the vote and see its outcome through fear of being accused of wasting money.

She said: "The current situation with council tax is that if we want to increase council tax we have to go to a public referendum and the public have to agree.

"And there’s certainly a lot of people in the public consultation meetings that we’ve been attending who said they would accept an increase in council tax."

"It will cost us £1million to do it, so we could spend £1million just to have the referendum and if they said no we would be accused of wasting money," she added.

Another option is to lobby the secretary of state for communities and local government, Sajid Javid, who has the capacity to make an exception.

Councillor Smith suggested Northamptonshire's seven MPs had brought this up during their meetings with Mr Javid.

On council tax, the draft budget report reads: "The budgeted council tax income for 2018-19 totals £292.86m. This is based upon a 4.98 per cent overall increase in council tax, including the continuation of the 3 per cent social care precept which has been applied in accordance with the recommended level announced within the spending revenue 2015.

"The draft budget states an additional one per cent increase in council tax would generate an estimated £3.7m in additional funding for the council.

"The estimated council tax base has been provided by district and borough councils with a headline Band D council tax of £1,224.69 which will be finalised and confirmed within the final budget report in February 2018."