Northants County Council balances books but more cuts looming

One Angel Square NNL-180214-164708009
One Angel Square NNL-180214-164708009

The £12.7 million borrowed from the reserves of Northamptonshire County Council to balance its books will need to be repaid this financial year, with a plan of how to do it announced in the coming months.

More cuts to services could be on the way as the county’s chief finance officer Mark McLaughlin has the job of setting out a plan for how to pay back the multi-million pound raid of its reserves.

Without taking the funds from the depleted savings account the council would have been declared bankrupt.

Yesterday (May 8) the authority’s leading politicians were remaining tight-lipped about where the axe could fall next as they met at a cabinet meeting at One Angel Square.

Cllr Michael Clarke, cabinet member with responsibility for finance, said: “No decisions have been taken yet but we will be having to look at how to repay the £12.7 million. The finance officer has this very high on his agenda and the plan on how we are going to do this will be brought back to the cabinet in June or July.”

The councillor said new systems had been introduced which would mean budget overspends would not take place in the future.

He said: “The council has to live within its means which is a position which has been unfamiliar to NCC in recent years.

“There will now be a forensic emphasis on cost control and new management reporting systems in place to identify small cost variances at an early stage and ask why they have happened.”

The county authority is set to be abolished by 2020 after government inspector Max Caller deemed it to be failing and severely mismanaged.

The ‘next generation’ model which involved moving all services into four separate mutual companies was heavily criticised and has now been abandoned by the local authority.

Over the past few months many of the leading councillors and officers who took charge of the authority over the past few years, such as former leaders Jim Harker and Heather Smith have left. Long-serving chief executive Paul Blantern departed the authority last autumn and his replacement Damon Lawrenson resigned in March after the damning government report.

Speaking at the meeting, recently appointed council leader Matt Golby said he expected to hear imminently from the Secretary of State about plans to send in commissioners to oversee the running of the council.

An improvement board set to be established to oversee financial management and governance at NCC was criticised by opposition councillors who called  it “too prescriptive and too late.”