Budget crisis takes Northamptonshire council into uncharted territory
From The Guardian: The most high-profile symbol of the cuts in Northamptonshire to date has arguably the county’s 36 libraries, 21 of which the council wants to close or sell. There is popular outrage at this, not least in Northamptonshire’s more well-heeled rural areas, making its Tory MPs nervous. The proposal is being challenged in the courts.
Less well known is that 19 of the 21 libraries under threat host early-years children’s services such as mother-and-baby groups and health visitor sessions. These services were moved into libraries two years ago when an earlier round of cuts closed several SureStart centres. Where these services will go now is unclear.
Northamptonshire’s cuts will be felt in even its leafiest and most prosperous areas. Dig into the council’s cuts plans and you find an axe taken to highways budgets – less pothole filling, winter gritting and traffic light maintenance. The council expects legal challenges to these, too.
There is the removal of bus subsidies on rural routes connecting the county’s villages, another source of growing anger, and cuts to the county’s museums and heritage sites. If the council can charge for a service, or raise charges, it most likely will. Recycling centres may close; local charities will see grants disappear.
These are just the existing cuts plans: what is required in the next few months will take the council into uncharted territory. The two big areas of expenditure are adult and children’s social care. Expect tighter restrictions on who gets that care. The council has made clear that it will provide the legal minimum, to “those most in need only”.