Northants appoints new finance chief

9 Oct 18

Northamptonshire County Council has appointed a new finance chief to take up the reins, the local authority has confirmed to PF.

Ian DuncanA panel, which included the chief executive of the council and government commissioners, has appointed Ian Duncan [pictured right] as the council’s new executive director of finance and section 151 officer.

Duncan, a CIPFA member since 1979, is currently interim director of finance and procurement at Wiltshire Council and previously served as president of the Society of Municipal Treasurers in 2014-15.

Until Duncan formally takes control in November, James Smith - deputy section 151 officer - will be acting as the chief finance and section 151 officer.

The council began its search for a new executive director of finance in August after the resignation of chief financial officer Mark McLaughlin in July.

Northamptonshire County council’s HR officer previously told PF that the council wanted someone who is willing to take on a “unique challenge”.

McLaughlin’s resignation followed Andrew Quincey’s resignation from the post of chief executive just a week earlier. Quincey was replaced by Theresa Grant in July.

Before leaving the council, McLaughlin wrote a letter to councillors, which identified a predicted budget shortfall of £70m for 2018-19.

He then took the unprecedented step of issuing a second Section 114 notice to the council - the second in six months.

Update: 11:42am 10/10/18

Malcolm Longley, county council cabinet member for finance, said: “Ian Duncan has a wealth of professional expertise to tackle our well-documented financial challenges. 

“The council now has a strengthened team in place with a clear plan on how it continues to ensure it can live within its own means, and to deliver public services in Northamptonshire which are financially sustainable for the future.”

Timeline

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

February 2018 – The council's 151 officer issues the first Section 114 notice in 20 years, banning all spending except on statutory services; the council plans to sell off their brand new headquarters to generate cash, auditors warn the council’s budget may not be lawful, the council passes a revised budget

March 2018 – Inspector Max Caller publishes report recommending the county is split into two unitariescouncil accepts the report’s findings; leader Heather Smith steps down, Javid announces that the council will continue to make majority of decisions despite government commissioners’ involvement

April 2018 – Matthew Golby appointed new council leader, leaseback agreement of headquarters is agreed

May 2018 – Council announces plans to set up improvement board, council balances its books with the use of reserves, commissioners are announced by new secretary of state James Brokenshire, 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, new CEO appointedsecond Section 114 order is issued

August 2018 – Council produces spending ‘action plan’ in response to Section 114, 'core spending' plan approved by full council, council’s plan to close 21 libraries found to be unlawful and proposals for two unitaries are outlined.

August 2018 –  Councils approve plans to scrap two-tier structure.

October 2018 – New executive director of finance is appointed.

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