We say Warmer Homes, Vulnerable Children and Bus Services should be budget priorities

17 Feb 2023

1. Subsidies for Bus Services

The Liberal Democrats are proposing additional funding to ensure that up to six bus routes under threat of loss, continue to receive a subsidy for at least the coming year.

“We have several bus routes that have received some council subsidies for a number of years”, says Brixworth Ward Liberal Democrat Councillor, Jonathan Harris.  “All bus routes have suffered as a result of the pandemic and many have yet to see a recovery to pre-pandemic passenger numbers” he continues.  “I represent a large rural ward in West Northants, and we currently have two main bus routes along the A5199 and A508 corridors, both providing services between Northampton and Market Harborough, with both services passing through Brixworth.  Removing the 59/60 would mean that places like Creaton, Hollowell, Guilsborough, Thornby, Naseby, Welford, Clipston, Marston Trussell and Sibbertoft would have no public transport connection at all.  That is totally unacceptable, especially when you look at the figures for last year, with over 20,000 passenger journeys being completed on 59/60.”

West Northants Council has employed a consultant to review buses and look at bus solutions. It was expected that an initial report would come forward in January, but to date there have been no such proposals. The Liberal Democrats have led a petition which is nearing 400 signatories from people who are asking the council to reconsider.

At a recent meeting, there were objections made to the introduction of parking charges at the Racecourse car park in Northampton and the council backed down, which means the council will need to find a shortfall of £60,000 from its contingency fund to cover loss in revenue.

“It does sometimes feel as though our rural areas come second”, says Cllr Rosie Humphreys, Lib Dem Councillor for Braunston and Crick.  Daventry is facing higher council tax charges for this third year of harmonisation than both Northampton and South Northamptonshire, yet we are seeing services like this at risk”.

It is expected that several Parish Chairs along the route will make representation to the council on Wednesday 22nd February at the Full Council budget meeting.

2.  Investment in Early Interventions to Support Families and Prevent Children Going into Care

The Liberal Democrats have two other key progressive proposals, including the investment of £1.5 million from the transformation reserve for early intervention to support families, volunteer and youth groups to prevent children being taken into care.

“70% of children being taken into care is due to neglect - a truly staggering figure”, says Sally Beardsworth, Lib Dem Group Leader at the council. “We rightly have an absolute duty to do all that we can to protect children. The cost of care for some children is huge and we believe that this is due to under investment in preventative measures over a long period of time. Figures have indicated that Northamptonshire combined has the 14th lowest spend on youth services (out of 173 local authorities) and has declined by 94% since 2010. You reap what you sow. We have to go upstream, invest more in family hubs and youth services. If we get this right, we could save millions. We would work in partnership with the Children’s Trust for full effectiveness”

3.  Loan Scheme to Make Homes Better Insulated

The Lib Dems are also proposing an interest free loan scheme to enable residents on middle incomes to carry out works to their homes to improve insulation and to make them more heat efficient.

“The government have largely withdrawn their schemes, apart from at the lowest income levels.  But most people are suffering and want to do more to reduce their energy usage, especially with the severe cost of living crisis at hand. This would be a highly innovative approach and contribute to the council’s overall net zero goal for 2045”, says Cllr Harris.

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