Northants commissioners call for section 114 to be lifted

28 Mar 19

Northamptonshire County Council’s commissioners have called for the local authority’s section 114 notice to be lifted, saying it should move from “under the shadow of this failure”.

The troubled council issued an unprecedented two section 114 notices last year – in February and again in July – which banned all non-statutory spending.

The second 114 notice – which is the one still in place - was issued in July 2018 when the council’s projected overspend stood at £30m – a figure that later grew to £64m in August.  

Brian Roberts, finance commissioner for the council, said: “The county council is living within its own means and has demonstrated that it is capable of doing so without putting services at further risk.

“Whilst the disciplines of the s114 process have assisted in this – and will be retained – there is no longer a need for the council to live under the shadow of this failure.”

Roberts, who worked alongside lead commissioner Tony McArdle, noted that they were “impressed that this has been achieve without the use of any funds other than those budgeted for at the beginning of the year”.

In order to balance the budget the council agreed the sale and leaseback of its new headquarters in a deal worth £64m.

Northants was also handed a lifeline by the secretary of state James Brokenshire in his local government finance settlement, which allowed it to increase council tax by 4.99% for 2019-20 – without holding a local referendum. Councils raising council tax above 2.9% must usually allow residents to vote on the move.

Council leader Matt Golby said: “We are due to publish our latest monitoring report next Monday and all indications are that we are now balancing our budget. Given that at one point the deficit stood at £64m this is an incredible achievement.

“Of course, this does not mean the lifting of strict financial controls, we will never again be complacent and we must continue with the energy and commitment we have shown to get us this far to further strengthen our finances and critically transform our services so they can move forward with confidence.”

Lord Porter, chair of the Local Government Association, told the Public Accounts Committee yesterday that Northamptonshire’s trouble was “an open secret” in the sector, before it issued a 114 notice. 

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