Northants plans ‘radical service’ reductions after second 114 notice

2 Aug 18

Northamptonshire Council has proposed “radical service reductions” in areas including care for vulnerable people as a response to its second 114 notice.

The insolvent council outlined plans for a “rigorous” action plan at an emergency council meeting last night, which included cuts to services including those for adults and children, road maintenance and waste management.

A special full council meeting has been called for next Thursday to discuss the action plan, which the local authority has said will see “radical service reductions and efficiencies” to address its “severe financial crisis”.

The embattled council has projected £60m to £70m of savings will be required this financial year in order to achieve a balanced budget.

Council leader Matt Golby said that the council needs to make “some very difficult decisions” to bring spending back under control.

He said: “This action plan outlines the approach we are going to take, which includes rigorous controls on spending, recruitment and contracts.

“These decisions will be made based on the core spending priorities discussed by full council yesterday.”

He added: “These are incredibly challenging times for the council but I am committed to ensuring we deliver those core services within the money we have available.”

Spending over £1,000 will have to have the approval of a panel chaired by the chief executive under the proposed measures.

A separate approval process – yet to be worked out - will be implemented for spending in adult and children’s services.

The plans also included a decision-making group within the council for spending priorities and a separate ‘transformation taskforce’.

Other areas facing cuts include home to school transport, and culture, and staff redundancy programmes have been mooted.

The council must still decide where it will find £8m to pay back Public Health England grant money, which it apparently misspent.

Last week, the council issued an unprecedented second section 114 order.

The action plan comes after Golby suggested yesterday that he would produce a “core offer”, which would define “the realistic level of service” the council is likely to provide.

Golby’s core offer, he said, would prioritise children’s and adult’s services.

CIPFA chief executive Rob Whiteman said “two lessons must be learnt” from Northampshire's situation. 

“The steps proposed by the director of finance to claw back the £70m that is needed to balance the budget will massively slash spending on a long list of vital services, the impacts of which will be felt deeply across the local community. And even then, there is uncertainty whether this will be enough.

“We will need to wait and see what happens next to the council and the key services that many rely upon, but two lessons must be learnt from this.”

The lessons were that public bodies must ensure they have the right level of checks and balances in place to spot stresses early and maintain financial buoyancy, Whiteman explained. 

“CIPFA is working with the sector to find means of supporting council finance leaders, such as developing a new financial management code and consulting on a financial resilience index,” he said. 

He added: “Secondly, there is a clear role for government to consider what value is placed on local service delivery and to engage objectively on funding with local government after years of funding cuts.”

In July, the council appointed a new chief executive.

The ‘chief executive approval panel’, which will make the decisions on spending over £1,000 and is chaired by the chief executive, was implemented following the council’s first Section 114 order and meets three times a week. 

Image credit: Hazel Nicholson, Flickr Images


January 2018 – Then communities secretary Sajid Javid sends in the inspector Max Caller to investigate the council’s financial management

February 2018 – The council issues the first Section 114 notice in 20 years, banning all spending except on statutory services

February 2018 – The council plans to sell off their brand new headquarters to generate cash

February 2018 – Auditors warn the council’s budget may not be lawful

February 2018 – The council passes a revised budget

March 2018 – Inspector Max Caller publishes report recommending the county is split into two unitaries

March 2018 – Council accepts the report’s findings; leader Heather Smith steps down

March 2018 – Javid announces that the council will continue to make majority of decisions despite government commissioners’ involvement

April 2018 – Matthew Golby appointed new council leader

April 2018 – Leaseback agreement of headquarters is agreed

May 2018 – Council announces plans to set up improvement board

May 2018 – Council balances its books with the use of reserves

May 2018 – Commissioners are announced by new secretary of state James Brokenshire

May 2018 – Auditor’s interim report reveals potential figure of PHE grant repayment

June 2018 – Final sum of misspent PHE grant is settled

July 2018 – CEO and CFO step down

July 2018 – New CEO appointed

July 2018 – Second Section 114 order is issued

August 2018 – Council produces spending ‘action plan’ in response to Section 114

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