‘Radical’ plans to address Northamptonshire County Council crisis revealed

Members of the public packed the gallery at last night's meeting
Members of the public packed the gallery at last night's meeting

A proposed plan outlining a series of ‘radical’ measures to address Northamptonshire County Council’s severe financial crisis has been revealed today (Thursday, August 2).

The proposal includes a number of steps to ‘significantly reduce spending’, including cutting children and adult services, staff redundancies and more, as the local authority seeks to save £60-70m this financial year.

The plan has been drawn up following a crisis meeting where councillors discussed priority services yesterday (Wednesday), and in response to the second Section 114 notice last month, halting most council spending.

Council leader Cllr Matt Golby said: “Unfortunately there are going to be some very difficult decisions ahead for Northamptonshire as we work hard to bring our spending under control while doing our very best to protect services for the most vulnerable in our communities.

“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.

“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.”

Protestors demonstrated outside the council’s headquarters ahead of the meeting yesterday to show their opposition to the latest cuts and financial collapse.

An NSPCC spokesman for the East of England said the signs are worrying for children in vulnerable situations in the county, some of whom have suffered abuse at the hands of parents.

“The protection and safeguarding of children in Northamptonshire must always be an absolute priority. And the continued threat of significant cuts to the council’s children’s services department is of significant concern,” he said.

“Shortcuts cannot be taken in safeguarding and there is an urgent need for a plan detailing how the council are going to prioritise vulnerable children.

“It is vital that early intervention part of this plan to target the needs of children at risk before issues escalate and families reach crisis point.”

The measures in the budget recovery plan include:

• Extended controls on spending, including approval for all spend over £1,000 and a new approval process for spending in adult and children’s services

• ‘Radical’ service reductions and efficiencies in areas across the council such as:

• Children’s services – looking at factors for high spending on high numbers of referrals and high numbers in the care system

• Adult services – examining learning disabilities, fees and charges and NHS contributions

• Road maintenance and transport including home to school transport

• ‘Property rationalisation’

• Business support services

• Waste management

• Culture

• The capital programme and its funding

• Staff redundancy programme

• Introduction of a strategic co-ordinating group to centralise decision-making in line with the council’s agreed spending priorities

• Introduction of a transformation task force to identify cost reductions in line with the council’s priorities

The plan will be discussed at the council meeting at 10.30am on Thursday, August 9.