Who said what in wake of Northamptonshire County Council section 114 announcement?

Clockwise from left: Andrew Gwynne, Jeremy Corbyn, Chris Stanbra and Margot Parker
Clockwise from left: Andrew Gwynne, Jeremy Corbyn, Chris Stanbra and Margot Parker

A party leader, financial experts, a shadow secretary of state, county councillors and an MEP.

All were among the people to add their voice to the conversation after last Friday's shock announcement that Northamptonshire County Council's director of finance had imposed immediate spending controls on the authority.

The news quickly spread around national media and elicited a response from the leader of the opposition.

Speaking at a conference in Nottingham on Saturday, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: "Yesterday we found out that Tory-run Northamptonshire County Council is effectively bankrupt.

"Austerity is unleashing chaos across our country, squeezing our local authorities and putting jobs and services at risk. When local councils face cuts, local people pay the price."

A member of Mr Corbyn's shadow cabinet also spoke out.

Andrew Gwynne MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, said: “The failure of this Tory-run council is the result of a perfect storm of chronic underfunding and catastrophic Tory mismanagement.

“Labour’s local parliamentary candidates are absolutely right - the government must send in commissioners to sort this mess out.

“Next week, the Government must use the Local Government Finance Settlement to provide genuinely new money to fund our public services. This situation cannot be allowed to be repeated.”

Closer to home, the Northamptonshire's MEP Margot Parker said: "Conservative MPs in the county have stated they have no faith in the Tory administration of the county council.

"That in itself is a worrying state of affairs. The people of this county deserve answers on how the council has found itself in this mess.

"It is a sorry state of affairs and a worry for council taxpayers and indeed, for all of us, who need and rely on a thriving county council, not one which appears to be moribund."

Chris Stanbra, Northamptonshire County Councillor and leader of the Liberal Democrat Opposition Group, said: “Senior Labour and Conservative politicians in the county seem to have very little confidence in the official opposition and the leadership of the county council respectively.

"They should be careful of what they wish for. One surefire way to see a slash and burn of non-statutory services such as libraries and bus subsidies is to hand control of the council's spending to government commissioners.

"Councillors who have been elected by local people to run the council should have the chance to sort out the mess that the council is in first.”

Councillor Paul Carter is the chairman of the County Councils Network, a cross-party organisation which represents England's 37 county authorities. He is also the leader of Kent County Council

He said: “Northamptonshire, like other counties, has worked hard to balance the books.

"But this first 114 notice issued by a council demonstrates the severe financial pressures counties are facing.

"County authorities face the deepest reductions in funding and demand-led pressures in adult social care. This is placing immense strain on local budgets after years of financial restraint.

"We must remember that not only is Northamptonshire the lowest funded county authority, the council tax freeze grant policy, encouraged by the previous government, hasn’t helped their finances, leaving the county an additional £23.6m worse off each year.

“CCN will now support Northamptonshire over the coming period but with the local government settlement next week, the government must take action to provide additional funding to county authorities.

"This would provide short-term relief to councils to meet the rising costs in adults and children’s social care.”

Meanwhile, The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy issued a statement on the section 114 notice, in which it offered three reasons why it was unsurprised at the news.

“First, the local government sector is under enormous strain following significant resource reductions since 2010," said a spokesperson.

"CIPFA has advised both the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) and the LGA that we are likely to see other councils reach this point in the two to three years if the government does not provide a more sustainable framework for local government finances.

“Secondly, in the specific case of Northamptonshire, it is a council that has traditionally received tight resources and has generally been a low-cost authority.

"An adverse OFSTED report placed the corporate position under strain. At the same time the number of elderly people has risen, creating budget pressures.

“Thirdly, the county’s transformation programme, though innovative, has not yielded sufficient savings and the council depleted its reserves in an unwise manner without alternative compensatory savings of the order needed.

"However, we have seen other councils suffering the same general and specific strains manage their budgets more effectively.

"With Northampton, it appears to have now deteriorated too far for the council to be able to manage its finances and government intervention is likely to be needed to set a path for the future.”