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Northamptonshire crisis: Calls for leader to resign as protesters mourn cuts

Residents and members of the GMB union gathered outside Northamptonshire County Council’s offices on One Angel Square yesterday in protest against its decision to find another £70m in savings – meaning only absolutely essential services will be offered.

The demonstration was organised in response to Northamptonshire’s call for another section 114 spending ban, which leaves the effectively insolvent council unable to finance anything beyond its statutory core duties.

The union argued this latest round of cuts will lead to “serious job losses and unprecedented cuts to services,” with children’s services likely to be the most severely hit.

Protesters gathered outside the local authority building while its councillors held an extraordinary budget meeting inside, where leader Matthew Golby and his staff discussed proposals around a bare-bones ‘Core Offer’ that lays out what can realistically be provided this financial year. According to the BBC, residents even stood for a minute’s silence to “mourn” the service cuts on the horizon.

Members of the public were also invited to speak for a few minutes at the meeting, with many calling on Golby to resign.

Rachelle Wilkins, GMB organiser, said the bankrupt council “has been stripped bare thanks to gross incompetence and central government cuts.

“NCC has now been hit by an unprecedented two Section 114 notices in just six months,” she added.

As part of the demonstration, union members and protesters called for an investigation into why a section 114 notice was “stopped from being issued” by the council’s leader and chief executive back in 2015.

A Freedom of Information request from a local paper recently revealed that warnings over already-tight finances three years ago were ignored by the authority’s bosses.

“They must have known that to carry on spending recklessly would leave the council in the terrible positions it’s in today,” argued Wilkins.

According to media reports, during the extraordinary council meeting Golby said that they “welcome criticism and challenge,” but the “quantum of the challenge financially is huge.”

“We are going to do everything within our powers to win back the confidence and trust of people from Northamptonshire to get this council back on track,” he commented. “This is a massive task we are being asked to look at this evening. But I welcome some constructive feedback and challenge from opposition members.”

According to ITV, Labour councillor Mick Scrimshaw, who opposed the Conservative-controlled council’s proposals, argued that there is “not a cat in hell’s chance that this year’s budget will actually balance.”


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