News

16.03.18

Leader resigns after Whitehall report calls for failing council to be split up

The leader of Northamptonshire County Council has announced her resignation after a government report recommended the impoverished authority should be split into two smaller unitary councils.

Heather Smith said it “wasn’t an easy decision” to leave the council in such difficult times but cited the “personal pressure of vicious public attacks” by local MPs who she claimed were using her as a scapegoat.

In November, the communities and housing secretary, Sajid Javid, appointed former Hackney LBC chief executive Max Caller to begin an investigation of the county’s finances.

The review was completed this week and heavily criticised the way the council handled its finances, saying that “living within budget constraints” was not part of the authority’s culture.

“The inspection team believe that a new start is required for the residents of Northamptonshire which can deliver confidence and quality in the full range of local government services,” Caller wrote.

“This can best be achieved by the creation of two new unitary councils, one covering the area of Daventry, Northampton and South Northamptonshire and the other encompassing Corby, East Northamptonshire, Kettering and Wellingborough. These should be established following elections to be held in May 2020 and be in operation commencing at their first annual meeting.”

The damning report suggested Javid should “give serious consideration” to whether commissioners should take over the running of all services in the county, except planning.

Caller went on to say that the council “did not respond well, or in many cases even react” to criticism it had received either internally or externally, adding that – despite Northamptonshire’s own claims – it had not been treated badly by the government’s funding formula.

In addition, he wrote that there were rifts between the council and other local public-sector services, such as NHS partners and smaller councils, which had created distrust and made it unlikely Northamptonshire would be able to deliver its promises.

Smith has claimed that the government did not provide fair funding for the authority in “one of the most turbulent times it has ever known.”

The council was forced to implement a section 114 spending ban in February, citing “severe financial challenges” and leading to extreme budget proposals that included “regrettable” plans, such as closing 21 small libraries and freezing all staff pay for the next year.

There has been further controversy in the last week, as bosses from the Department of Health and Social Care began meeting with Northamptonshire’s director of finance to investigate whether funding delivered to the authority was used for the purposes it was initially earmarked for.

Javid will now consider the proposals put forward by Caller and make an official proposal to Westminster detailing his future plans for the authority, which could include splitting it into unitary authorities or sending in commissioners to take charge.

Top image: Yevtony

Have you got a story to tell? Would you like to become a PSE columnist? If so, click here

Comments

There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

 

public sector executive tv

more videos >

latest news

View all News

comment

Connecting the North East

15/04/2019Connecting the North East

Cabinet member for economic regeneration at Northumberland County Council R... more >
What about social care?

15/04/2019What about social care?

Glen Garrod, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Serv... more >

editor's comment

25/10/2017Take a moment to celebrate

Devolution, restructuring and widespread service reform: from a journalist’s perspective, it’s never been a more exciting time to report on the public sector. That’s why I could not be more thrilled to be taking over the reins at PSE at this key juncture. There could not be a feature that more perfectly encapsulates this feeling of imminent change than the article James Palmer, mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, has penned for us on p28. In it, he highlights... read more >

last word

The importance of openness after Grenfell

The importance of openness after Grenfell

Following the recent Grenfell Tower tragedy, Lord Porter, chairman of the LGA, argues that if the public are going to have faith in the safety testing process then everything must be out in the open more > more last word articles >

interviews

Digital innovation in the public sector: The future is now

17/12/2018Digital innovation in the public sector: The future is now

One of the public sector’s key technology partners has recently welco... more >

the raven's daily blog

Self-build builds potential for more and better homes

15/04/2019Self-build builds potential for more and better homes

The director of The Right to Build Task Force – which advises stakeholders on bringing on more custom and self-build homes – Mario Wolf, who is currently on second... more >
read more blog posts from 'the raven' >

public sector events

events calendar

back

April 2019

forward
mon tue wed thu fri sat sun
25 26 27 28 29 30 31
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 1 2 3 4 5

featured articles

View all News