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Northamptonshire County Council In ‘Crisis Talks’ To Protect Services

CaringNorthamptonshire County Council held ‘crisis talks’ at the beginning of the month in a bid to find a way to protect its services for vulnerable people amid drastic cutbacks.

The council, facing “unprecedented cuts” and needs to make drastic cutbacks in order to save £70m by next March, has promised to retain its services for vulnerable adults and children, but will cut it back to a ‘core offer’ which could see services stripped back to the legal minimum.

The talks were held as the Council are tasked with cutting back selected services to save £70m by next March, with the authority having imposed emergency spending controls twice in the last six months.

Speaking to the BBC, Brian Roberts, one of two government-appointed commissioners overseeing the council, said the authority’s finances were in a “truly perilous state”.

Leader of the council Cllr Matt Golby said: “In many ways we are now at the starting point of the very long journey of realigning our budget. Last week’s Section 114 notice is the first time where there is complete clarity shared by us, the government and the external expertise at CIPFA of the scale of the challenge we face. This was critical if we were to ever have a chance of rising to this challenge.

“A dedicated team will be established within the council to lead on this work. The new priorities being discussed and agreed by councillors over these next two weeks – first tonight and then at Cabinet on August 14 – will be used to assess all spend across council services and identify where savings can be made.

“Of course 70 per cent of the council’s spend is through contracts with third party suppliers and a large piece of this work will be to review all of these contracts against the new priorities on a contract by contract basis.

“We will be open and fully transparent with the results of this work which will include painful but necessary decisions.” A section 114 notice issued last week, severely curtailing spending at the council, follows the issuing of the same notice in February.

The news came on Friday that the former leader of Northamptonshire County Council had resigned from her party, citing that she “cannot cope” with comments from new councillors.

Prof Tony Travers, a local government expert at the London School of Economics, warned 15 to 20 councils were at risk of ending up in a similar position to Northamptonshire.

“It won’t just be Northamptonshire, but they are the council that has got nearest to the precipice as it were so far,” he said.

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