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13.11.18

Northamptonshire County Council slashes deficit by £10m, but services in ‘significant decline’

Savings made by the financially-challenged Northamptonshire County Council have reduced the local authority’s overall deficit by more than £10m since a section 114 notice was issued to the council in July this year.

Council board papers due to be discussed today found that £1.3m of proposals introduced in Northamptonshire CC’s stabilisation plan in October have already been delivered, and a remaining £10.7m will bring down the council’s overall deficit to £53.4m on the year.

In July, a potential budget deficit of between £60m-£70m pushed the director of the council’s finances to issue an unprecedented second section 114 notice, banning all spending until further notice. In May government-appointed commissioners were sent in to run Northamptonshire’s finances to create further savings.

Previous to leaders of Northamptonshire’s district and borough councils writing to communities secretary James Brokenshire of their concerns of cuts to services last month, in August Northamptonshire County Council members voted in favour to abolish the current structure of local government in the area in favour of a unitary structure, in a bid to cut costs and make further savings.

Today, cabinet members will discuss its monthly revenue monitoring report, highlighting areas of overspend. Echoing the demands of local government around the UK, adult social care, forecasting an overspend of £261,000 bringing the forecast full-year pressure up to £17.8m, is indicative of the demand placed on the sector.

“The forecast has increased by £1,984,000 since period 5 and now includes a further £1.4m of additional care for older people based on the rising winter pressures from hospitals in addition to the demand included in previous forecasts,” the council document explained.

“Nationally health is forecasting another very challenging winter and with high admissions continuing it is expected there will be a continued pressure on social care to support onward care packages and rehabilitation.”

Ofsted says children’s services have ‘significantly declined’

The education and children’s services inspectorate has worryingly stated that children’s services have “significantly declined” in the past two years since Northamptonshire County Council’s financial downturn, and said that attempts to remedy the growing issue have not been done with “sufficient urgency or rigour.”

“Against a backdrop of recent significant financial uncertainty and changes in leadership at corporate and managerial levels, services considered during this visit have significantly declined in the past two years since the single inspection in 2016,” Linda Steele, Ofsted inspector, wrote.

Amongst the findings included 267 children who were not allocated a social worker; despite the number of allocated cases being reduced from 551 in January, it has remained “stubbornly” between 200 and 300.

Cabinet member for Children, Families, and Education Cllr Victoria Perry said the council knows children’s services “are not working well” and Northamptonshire CC is focussed on recovering from these failures.

She added: “While we will need to focus on improvements in safeguarding it is also equally critical we do far better in early help and prevention.”

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