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Bill for cash-strapped council’s usage of ring-fenced money could be up to £16m

 A new investigation into the usage of public funds by Northamptonshire County Council could levy the authority with a £16m grant bill after its apparent usage of ring-fenced cash on other services.

The struggling council — which had government-appointed commissioners sent in to improve finance management of the body — received more than £70m in funding from Public Health England to be used for specific purposes such as stop smoking services and health education over a two-year period.

Yet former council leader Heather Smith said to the BBC this year that the finances “may have been spent in adult social care.”

"It is debatable whether that was a public health need or not," said Smith.

Auditors KPMG have now said that the bill to replenish the use of the cash is now £16m - a 60% increase on initial reports of the bill.

The auditors said the council had rejected a recommendation of an independent check to evaluate the way public health grant money was used.

It said: "This is clearly not acceptable to Public Health England as it is now challenging up to £16m of potential non-compliant spend."

A council spokesman said: "We have been working closely with Public Health England, providing evidence. We await the final outcome of the review."

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Image credit: Yevtony, iStock images 


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