Northants County Council chief says job is fraught with risk

New county council chief executive Theresa Grant was speaking at a committee meeting this week
New county council chief executive Theresa Grant was speaking at a committee meeting this week

Northamptonshire County Council’s new chief executive says her daily working life is “fraught with risk” as she seeks to steer the authority through its current financial crisis.

Theresa Grant has the job of making sure the country’s most financially challenged council balances its books this year and is leading the efforts to put together a plan to make £60m of cuts to public services.

At yesterday’s audit committee held at County Hall in Northampton (Sept 13) the experienced council leader, who was at the helm at Trafford Council for nine years, said a big challenge was doing the day to day business while preparing for unitaries. It is expected that two unitaries will replace the existing eight councils in the county.

She said: “This is my fourth week of physically being here but in that time what has come, not unexpectedly, has been that a key feature of day to day work is risk.

“It is quite dynamic at the moment and things are changing on a daily basis.

“We have to save £60m this year. While we’re very busy doing that we have to manage the formation and design of two unitaries. Making sure we deliver the business while trying to design new systems.

“The secretary of state has not yet approved an order, so until such time as he does I’m assuming this organisation needs to become sustainable.

“ We expect timing for a unitary announcement would be December and the districts, boroughs and county are working closely together in preparation for that decision.

“My daily work is fraught with risk at the moment. On the upside there is lots of mitigations.

“My risk register now would have a lot of red but I would be comfortable that mitigations are on the way.”

Theresa Grant is the authority’s fourth chief executive in 12 months.

Paul Blantern, who was the chief officer at the council for seven years and the architect of the next generation service model, left the authority in October last year.

His successor Damon Lawrenson resigned in March in the wake of the damning Max Caller report which suggested the council should be abolished as it was unfit for purpose.

Andrew Quincey was in charge for just three months before he resigned.

Two Government-appointed commissioners are also overseeing the council and reporting back to central government on the authority’s financial progress.

Sarah Ward, Local Democracy Reporter