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05.02.18

Northamptonshire becomes first council in 20 years to issue major spending ban

“Severe financial challenges” have led a major county council to issue a section 114 notice, meaning that stringent spending controls will be implemented with immediate effect.

In a statement, Northamptonshire County Council said that no new expenditure was permitted, with the exception of statutory services for safeguarding vulnerable people.

It also went on to warn residents that the drastic action had been taken as there was now a “significant risk” that the council will not deliver a balanced budget by the end of the year.

“Councillors have 21 days to discuss the implications of the section 114 notice and this is due to be addressed at the full council meeting on 22 February,” the statement read. “The notice does not affect staff pay and the council will continue to meet its statutory functions.”

Northamptonshire CC, which is under Conservative control, is the first council in 20 years to impose the emergency sanctions, and the decision has been made just four months after the authority opened the doors of its new £53m headquarters.

Back in January, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) confirmed that the council’s troubled finances would be investigated, and a report is due to be released next month.

Council leader Heather Smith added that she had been warning government since around 2013-14 that its financial position was unsustainable.

“We have been warning government since about 2013-14 that with our financial position we couldn’t cope with the level of cuts that we were facing,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“Before Christmas I did write to the secretary of state to say that we were about to fall over the edge of the cliff. We can’t just increase council tax. We have a cap on us.”

CCN: Notice shows severe county financial pressures

Paul Carter, chairman of the County Councils Network and leader of Kent County Council, said that Northamptonshire, like other counties, had worked hard to balance its books.

“But this first 114 notice issued by a council demonstrates the severe financial pressures counties are facing,” he continued.

“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.”

Top Image: yevtony

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