29.03.19

Spending ban over Northamptonshire County Council lifted

Northamptonshire County Council will have its spending ban lifted after commissioners reported the authority is “now living within its own means.”

The section 114 notice banned all expenditure at the authority except on statutory services for protecting vulnerable people.

Northamptonshire became the first council in 20 years to receive the notice after “sever financial difficulties” saw commissioners appointed to oversee the cash-strapped council.

A second section 114 notice was issued in July last year, but Brian Roberts, the finance commissioner for the council, said it was now “living within its own means.”

Roberts said the authority is balancing its books “without putting services at further risk,” which follows a report from the commissioners last week which found the council’s financial position has “improved considerably” and with its budget plans now “robust and realistic.”

The commissioners say the next financial monitoring report, due to be released next week, shows a broadly balanced financial picture for the first time.

Council leader Matt Golby said: “All indications are that we are now balancing our budget.

“Earlier this year I said that all indications were that we were turning a corner and we had successfully built stability back into the council’s finances. Given that at one point the deficit stood at £64m, this is an incredible achievement.”

Roberts said: “We are impressed that this has been achieved without the use of any funds other than those budgeted for at the beginning of the year.

“The county council is living within its own means and has demonstrated that it is capable of doing so without putting services at further risk. It is a significant achievement which reflects well upon the members and staff of the authority.

“Whilst the disciplines of the s114 process have assisted in this - and will be retained - there is no longer a need for the council to live under the shadow of this failure.

“The work to restore the operating capabilities of many of the council's services, which have been greatly diminished over the years, can continue as the council prepares to place these services into proposed new arrangements for two unitaries in the county area.”

In November last year the government made up to £70m in capital receipts from the council’s HQ sale available to the authority, effectively bailing the council out.

The county council is also due to be scrapped in 2020 in favour of two new unitary authorities, bringing together seven borough and district councils.

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