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Cash-strapped Northamptonshire hit with public health funding inquiries

Northamptonshire County Council could be in for further financial trouble after officials revealed government queries over the use of ring-fenced funding.

Public Health England (PHE) bosses have opened discussion with the council’s new director of public health in relation to funding received between 2015 and 2017 that may have been spent on areas it was not initially earmarked for.

An investigation by the BBC involving council leader Heather Smith, suggested that up to £10m of the £70m total funding could be contested by PHE over concerns that the money was spent on adult social care rather than public health.

Problems have piled on for the troubled Northamptonshire, which became the first council in 20 years to issue a section 114 spending ban in early February after leaders said they faced “severe financial challenges” and a £78m funding gap.

A spokesperson for the authority confirmed to PSE that discussions were taking place regarding the Statement of Assurance for periods between 2015-16 and 2016-17.

“These discussions are around how public health grant was used within public services in Northamptonshire during these years,” the spokesperson explained.

However, they were not able to reveal any more information about the issues while talks are continuing.

Problems at Northamptonshire were first revealed in January when the Department of Communities, Housing and Local Government (DCHLG) announced that it would be investigating the council’s finances, with the authority later announcing its spending ban.

Since then, leaders have published a revised budget with some ‘regrettable’ proposals, including freezing staff pay in 2018-19, reducing councillors’ allowances and closing down 21 libraries.

Top image: Yevtony

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