PHE asks Northants to explain spending of £10m grant funding

12 Mar 18

Troubled Northamptonshire County Council has been told to explain to Public Health England how grants of some £10m were used.

A PHE spokeswomen said: “We are in discussions with them about how money was spent over the past two years to clarify the position.”

She said this did not yet have the status of an investigation and related to some money that was ringfenced for specific public health purposes and other funds less rigidly allocated.

Northamptonshire’s Conservative leader Heather Smith told the BBC the money “may have been spent in adult social care” and that it was “debatable whether that was a public health need or not”.

The council last month became the first in 20 years to issue a section 114 notice of its kind, which restricted spending other than on statutory duties.

It is also under investigation by Max Caller, an inspector appointed to report to communities secretary Sajid Javid in January.

Northamptonshire has meanwhile decided to take its public health work back in house after outsourcing it to a community interest company in which its two partners failed to invest.

A cabinet report last week stated ‘First for Wellbeing’ was set up as a separate legal entity by the council, Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Northampton ”to create a single organisation for the development and delivery of services that enhance the physical, emotional, social and economic wellbeing”.

But it said: “Only the council has made any significant investment to date.”

Northamptonshire’s financial problems meant that any surplus FFW made had to return to the council rather than be invested in the company’s services as intended, while its separate status duplicated management and costs.

FFW is among several ’next generation’ mutuals, social enterprises or private companies to which Northamptonshire outsourced most services.

The report said factors that meant FFW should return in-house included the council’s financial pressures, which “call into question the cost of the running the services through a separate legal entity, scrutiny from external auditors who have suggested that the next generation model is not providing value for money, and scrutiny from Public Health England which is reviewing the historic and current use of the public health grant by NCC”.

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