'Refusal to raise tax, austerity and policies favouring private sector to blame for Northamptonshire County Council woes'
A Northamptonshire campaign group has blamed the county council's refusal to raise council tax, austerity measures and policies which favoured the private sector for the current state of affairs at One Angel Square.
Save Northants Services issued its statement in the wake of this week's announcement from the Secretary of State for local government Sajid Javid, which will see inspectors conduct an investigation into the county council.
Mr Javid has called the inspection to specifically look at whether the council was complying with its ‘best value’ duty.
The statement read: "The news that NCC is being investigated for the way it has been running its finances and services comes as no surprise to Save Northants Services (SNS) which has long pointed out the Tory Council’s appalling record in many areas.
"We believe Northants County Council has failed the people it is supposed to serve.
"It has wilfully followed political dogma, extreme austerity measures and policies that have favoured private business rather than public need.
"All of this has resulted in terrible and damaging cuts to essential services – affecting education and children’s centres, libraries, bus services, young persons’ support, older people’s care packages and services for disabled people."
Save Northants Service highlighted the areas which it believes have a particular need for investigation.
It cites the council's reliance on "massively overpriced" Private Finance Initiatives (PFI schemes) which total more than Â£1.5 billion with annual repayments set over many years; its refusal to keep council tax in line with inflation; its reliance on "horrendously expensive" private consultants as chief officers and the extensive use of expensive temporary staff.
The campaigners believe the ideologically driven reorganisations and outsourcing of services has resulted in poor and confused management, waste of resources (both financial and human), extremely poor staff morale, high turnover staff and resulting deterioration in public provision.
It also said the council fail to operate an effective and transparent, evidence-based scrutiny system and is deaf to reasonable criticism. This, they feel, has resulted in politically driven decision-making irrespective of evidence of harm to people and damage to services.
The group's statement continued: "A House of Commons committee reported that PFI schemes cost 60 per cent more than regular financing, which means the county is wasting approximately Â£600 million over 25 – 30 years; while the ideological refusal to raise council tax at all over a long period - alongside consultants costs and use of agency staff – has resulted in the decimation of public services.
"We in SNS call for these dire policies to be investigated and to be reversed.
"We have no real confidence that the Government inspectors will reverse these policies completely, tied as the inspectors are to a government that has supported the very policies that have caused this crisis.
"We will seek to speak to the investigators to put our views across and to argue for change, and we call upon the public to also raise their concerns with the investigators and to work with us to get the many changes needed."