Back in January 2018 an inspection into Northamptonshire County Council was ordered to be overseen by Max Caller CBE, who, with the inspection team, have completed a 50 page report on the topic.
The report starts by condemning the county stating that they have fundamentally failed to comply with their duty to provide best value in the delivery of its services.
The council did not respond well, or in many cases even react, to external and internal criticism. Individual councillors appear to have been denied answers to questions that were entirely legitimate to ask and scrutiny arrangements
The report identifies the county council’s inability to control expenditure and states that ‘Appropriate advice in setting and managing budgets and the necessary control mechanisms to ensure that the Council complied with the law and good practice are only just now being introduced’
The inspection team have recognised that the Council employ many people who do a good job trying to delivery essential services based on what can be offered and is available. The problems that the council face are not their fault.
During the period under review NCC’s performance has been characterised by three elements: poor budget management, the ‘Next Generation Council’ and a claim that NCC was specifically and unusually disadvantaged by the funding formula (the ‘Mind the Gap’ lobby strategy). The report finds that many of the statements made by the Council with regards to being forced to certain decisions regarding matters such as Library, Pay, Gritting could not be justified and the council had a choice.
The council’s approach comes across as sloppy, lacking in rigour and without challenge. It is particularly concerning to see this approach in all subsequent years. There does not seem to be any understanding of the difference between a budget pressure (that needs to be managed), contingency sums, spending where there is a choice and what is truly inescapable
The Inspection team believe that a new start is required for the residents of Northamptonshire which can deliver confidence and quality in the full range of Local Government services.
Their proposal is that following elections in May 2020 two new Unitary Councils should be created. One covering the area of Daventry, Northampton and South Northamptonshire and the other encompassing Corby, East Northamptonshire, Kettering and Wellingborough.
These new unitary councils could then be in operation following the first annual meeting after the 2020 election. This would mean that the oversight from the County Council would no longer exist.
The report concludes that the Secretary of State should give serious consideration to whether Commissioners should take over the running of Northamptonshire County Council services.
Raunds Town Voice have obtained a full copy of the report which can be found by clicking here