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Northamptonshire to sell education centre ahead of plans for unitary council shake-up

Northamptonshire County Council’s cabinet has agreed to sell its Longtown Outdoor Education Centre in an attempt to tackle a £70m budget shortfall, just a day before a report on the future governance of the council is due to be published.

The 70-bed residential centre, owned by the council since 1964, will be purchased by the Wilson Foundation as the crisis-hit authority tries to fight its away out of a section 114 spending ban and ensure the continued employment of its staff.

Cabinet member for transport, highways and environment, Cllr Ian Morris, said: “This is a good news story for us here at the county council, and they are in fairly short supply at this time. Children will be able to benefit from these services and we get a much-needed capital receipt.”

The sale of Longtown Educational Centre is due to be finalised on 1 September.

This comes a few months after the local authority agreed to sell its headquarters for £64m in an effort to avoid “far more service cuts” at the time.

Separately, a report on the future governance of Northamptonshire – which will likely recommend splitting the region’s local government into two new unitary councils – will be published tomorrow.

All authorities in the region were originally asked to submit restructuring proposals by 27 July, but this deadline was then extended by communities secretary James Brokenshire to the end of August.

The financially-ruined county council recently approved a set of radical cuts on services and jobs following its second section 114 notice last month.

Northamptonshire’s council said there would be major cutbacks to children’s and adult services, transport, and waste management, as well as a programme of staff redundancy as it tries to make the required savings of £70m this financial year. Yesterday, however, efforts to shut down libraries were deemed unlawful by the High Court.

Cllr Matthew Golby, Northamptonshire’s leader, who has been asked to resign by protesters outside an extraordinary council meeting, said there are going to be some “very difficult decisions ahead.”

The proposed sale of the outdoor education centre is the latest attempt to fight the budget shortfall.

Image Credit - Joe Giddens, PA Images

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