Kettering Borough Council (KBC) this week announced their draft budget for 2017/18 and have started a public consultation to see what local people think of their plans which include making savings of almost £1.4m.

The budget proposals can be viewed and downloaded from the KBC website here:

http://www.kettering.gov.uk/meetings/meeting/1512/executive_committee

There will be a public consultation meeting at 7.00 pm on Thursday, 26th January 2017 at the Municipal Offices, Bowling Green Road, Kettering. Even though this is a public meeting the council have asked that anyone wishing to attend contacts Anne Ireson at Kettering Borough Council if they would like to go. Anne can be contacted by telephone on 01536 534398.

The budget highlights the savings they will be making next year and explains a little bit about how they intend to do this. One of the most striking and risky elements to the plan is to borrow £20m to invest in business-like revenue making schemes. These are designed to bring in extra money to the council, although they haven’t announced yet whether they plan to raise council tax or not.

When the budget was announced at a meeting of the Council’s Executive Committee, I asked to address the committee and told them I welcome some things in this draft budget. In particular, the new plans to generate revenue from capital, which is actually something I’ve been calling for for a long time.

We all know that government has systematically cut the grant they give to the council, and from 2020 they will not be paying any grant at all, so councils need to become more self sufficient. If they don’t simply want to rely on local tax payers then they have to bring in money from elsewhere.

While supporting this I did explain to the council’s leadership that it does not come without risk, and so far the council’s plans in this direction have not raised a single penny despite large amounts of capital already having been spent! I reminded them I’d previously spoken about the need to speed up this programme and told them I would be a lot more confident about this budget if they already had a track record of success.

That said, the Labour Group of Councillors and I do welcome the direction they are taking on this issue and told them I hoped this would be something we could work together across party lines on achieving in the forthcoming year. However, I did also tell them that my first impressions of this budget are that it is not very ambitious. It seems to be designed purely to look after KBC as an organisation and while it rightly tries to deal with some of the forthcoming financial challenges – it seems to be based on us just managing the current position and doing no more.

There is no aspiration to improve local services to residents and while I accept we are in challenging times, we should also be trying to reinvigorate the council’s services delivery and do better. There are opportunities to both redesign public services to make them more efficient, but also to enhance them so that we can offer much more to our residents.

Making do and managing what we’ve got is good. However it’s not as good as moving forward and improving services – rather than just maintaining financial necessity – that’s what should be a part of this draft plan.