Northamptonshire MPs call for county council takeover


Northamptonshire County Council.

Image caption

The government ordered a review into the county council’s finances last month

MPs are calling for government commissioners to take over the running of a county council which has banned almost all spending.

Northamptonshire County Council has brought in a “section 114” notice, banning new expenditure.

In a joint statement, the county’s seven MPs said they had lost confidence in the authority’s leadership.

Council leader Heather Smith is yet to comment but said earlier she had warned the government about its situation.

She told the BBC on Saturday that it was “the perfect storm” of increases in demand for services and reductions in government funding.

‘Self-inflicted’

However, the MPs claim council cabinet members “repeatedly told” the government – even as recently as December – that the Conservative council could “balance its budget”.

The statement said the current inspection of the council, instigated last year, should conclude quickly and lead to the appointment of commissioners.

“It should be noted that the county’s financial problems are self-inflicted,” it added.

The MPs – all of whom are Conservative – said they had confidence in council staff working in “tough circumstances” but launched a scathing attack on its leadership and cabinet.

Backbench county councillors, it said, were capable of driving the council forward “if only they were given the opportunity to do so” but were “undermined” by cabinet members when they attempted to scrutinise decisions.

“We had concerns that if the leadership of the council were giving government the same information they were giving us as MPs… then a completely incorrect picture of the council’s finances would be being passed on, which in turn would undermine any legitimate ask for fairer funding,” the statement said.

The council announced in December that it was looking to increase council tax by almost 5% as it sought to make savings of £34.3m and revealed in January it was considering selling its new £53m headquarters, which officially opened in October.

It is the first section 114 notice – a provision of the Local Government Finance Act – issued in about 20 years.



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