This week I made a speech to full Council proposing Labour's alternative budget. With government cuts we argue that there should have been an increase in Council Tax.
My speech is as follows:
Thank You Mayor,
I want to give you the alternative Labour Group budget. I shall first outline what we intend to spend it on and then how we will ultimately pay for it.
Community Safety is a big issue in our town and the level of violent crime is becoming ever more of a concern to our residents. Whist this Council is not the police or social services it can nevertheless play an important role. One of most important roles if the Licencing function and so we want to employ an additional Licencing Enforcement Officer. This is really needed as my colleagues on the Licencing Committee, Cllrs Stone, Eales, Duffy and Choudary can testify. Cutting back on Licencing staff puts the public at greater risk.
It’s no long now before this Council has to start thinking about what it going to do once the Enterprise Contract comes to an end in 2018. The Labour Group have argued that there needs to be an in-house bid team and also a scrutiny group overlooking the whole process. We have said it before and we will say it again we believe the Enterprise Contract has failed. In the meantime we believe a pilot study should be carried out for a ‘comingled collection’ in Park Ward. Let’s try having just three bins – one for recycled waste, one for non-recycle waste and one for garden waste. Similar to what they have in South Northamptonshire.
When the Cllr David Mackintosh became Leader of the Council one of his first ruthless acts was to cut Neighbourhood Management Officers. These officers did much good work for the community and helped to raise external funds. Neighbourhood Officers built up resilience in the communities. We propose in our alternative budget to employ two of these officers. They are needed more than ever.
Dementia is a disease that is becoming an ever increasing problem in our town and country. We want Northampton to become part the Dementia Friendly Communities programme focuses on improving inclusion and quality of life for people with dementia. The Prime Minister said he wants to see more communities become dementia friendly. So we propose to improve inclusion and quality of life for people with dementia by having Northampton recognised as a Dementia friendly Town. An estimate of an initial £50,000 Capital investment with a further £10,000 annual support costs has been included within this alternative budget.
The Labour Group feels very strongly about housing and as has noted recently the size of the private rented sector has grown in Northampton. We all know that we have good landlords in the town but also some very poor ones as well. We welcome how staff are now trying to get a handle on bad landlords. To do this properly we need to employ an additional member of staff in the private sector housing team. Let’s give the Private Sector Housing Manager the tools to do the job properly and employ an additional Private Sector Housing Officer.
We are reducing the Councillor Community Fund from £3000 to £1500. When the Councillor Community Fund was set up a Scrutiny group was established to investigate how it would work. The then Cabinet Member for Finance, Cllr Alan Bottwood, gave evidence and said £1500 is all we can afford. We agree with him that £1500 is all we can afford.
In an age of deep cuts imposed on us from Central Government we have to make difficult decisions. We believe that a fireworks display, at present, is something this Borough Council cannot afford. Therefore we propose to remove this from the budget.
Labour also cares about Environmental
Council tax has been frozen for more six years and this has eroded our base budget when you take into account inflationary pressures. This continues Council tax freeze has cost this authority more than £8 million – about the projected budget gap for 2019. It is time to be bold and brave and put up the Council Tax. Northampton Labour has also continuously made the case to freeze the council tax reduction scheme at its present level as repeated cuts are the equivalent of a council tax hike for the poorest people in our town. Let’s increase council tax by £5 but freeze the council tax reduction scheme. We need to be bold.
We have put this to the Section 151 Officer and his team and they have issued their report to say our alternative is financially sound. Our sums stack up.
This is an alternative budget that is fully costed and put residents and communities first.