The two commissioners parachuted in to oversee the running of Northamptonshire County Council had their first day at county hall yesterday (May 16).
One of the first moves of Tony McCardle and Brian Roberts was to meet the authority’s Conservative cabinet and discuss the actions taken so far to try and to put the authority on a better financial footing.
The two local government experts, who have many years’ experience of running local councils, have been appointed by Secretary of State James Brokenshire after severe financial failings which saw the council only just manage to balance its books this year.
The authority is still under severe financial pressure and needs to find a way to pay back the £12.7m it borrowed from general reserves.
The two commissioners, who will run large parts of the council, are both being paid hundreds of pounds per day and will regularly update the Secretary of State on progress.
Speaking at a full council meeting at county hall today leader Matt Golby said: “Without doubt, county councils face a tough challenge from a financial point of view. In Mr McArdle and Mr Roberts we have two people who understand what it is like, and I have given them my assurance that we will work with the commissioners and support them during their time with us.
“We will draw from their experience and listen to what they have to say. We will work in collaborative partnership with them and help them to understand our challenges, the things we are proud of and work under their direction to rebuild trust in the county council and with our district and borough partners to design a new model for local government that delivers best value for our hardworking residents and businesses who have the right to expect more from us all.”
Price Waterhouse Cooper is currently putting together an options report on behalf of the county’s eight councils which have been tasked by central government of putting together a joint bid for two unitary authorities. This will see the abolition of the county council and all of the district and borough councils. The new unitaries are expected to be in place for May 2020. A shadow unitary will be created next year made up of representatives from across the councils.
Hopes of a single unitary authority for Northampton came to an end this week after the borough councillors voted against the idea, a move heavily criticised by the Labour opposition.