Minister prepared to send in commissioners to run Angel Square finances
Sajid Javid, the secretary of state in charge of local councils, is set to send Whitehall civil servants to run parts of Northamptonshire County Council.
Mr Javid has spoken in Parliament this afternoon saying he is "minded to" send commissioners to Northamptonshire, in response to Max Caller's scathing audit.
As a result, it is highly likely that the officials will take the reins of the finance department, and they will also make changes to the way scrutiny of key decisions is carried out. The latter step is because the inspection team found opposition councillors were routinely denied crucial information that was needed to hold leaders to account.
Mr Javid said: "From day one, I propose they take control of the council's financial management and overall governance. Getting the basics right must be the first step in stabilising the authority.
He added that the commissioners' remit may increase, depending on what they find. Mr Javid said: "I also propose giving them executive powers across the entirety of [council] functions if they consider that they must step in."
Mr Javid also invited the various councils in Northamptonshire to put forward their own ideas for the future structure of local government in the county. Mr Caller recommended that the county be split into just two local authorities, one in the north and another in the south.
A spokeswoman for Northamptonshire County Council said: “We welcome this announcement and the clarification of the views of the Secretary of State and the potential direction of travel for Northamptonshire. We view this as an opportunity for a fresh start in our working relationship with the government and the county’s MPs.
“We also welcome the invitation for submissions for unitary governance in the county. We have long maintained that this county needs a reorganisation of local government and we see today’s invitation for submissions as a further opportunity for us to work alongside our district and borough colleagues to find the best solutions for the county.
“We will now be formally responding to the government and are looking forward to working alongside them to deliver the best outcome for the people of Northamptonshire.”
Insiders at Angel Square say they had feared a larger-scale takeover and are relieved that the likes of social services, roads and trading standards look set to be run locally.
One member of staff said: "I know it's bad to have any part of us run by Government, but [today's announcement] almost feels like a good thing. They could have done much worse."