The leader of Northamptonshire CC is “looking forward” to a government-commissioned inspection of the council’s financial management and finance.
Yesterday housing and communities secretary Sajid Javid announced he will use powers granted under the Local Government Act 1999 to commission former Hackney LBC chief executive and commissioner at Tower Hamlets LBC, Max Caller, to assess whether the council is complying with its ’best value’ requirement to ensure good governance and resource management.
In a written parliamentary statement Mr Javid said there had been concerns about financial management at Northamptonshire “for some time”, with the publication of recent reports leading him “to question whether the authority is failing to comply with its best value duty”.
Responding to the announcement, Northamptonshire leader Heather Smith (Con) said she welcomed the inspection as civil servants will have the opportunity to assess “for themselves” the financial pressures the council has been warning the government about.
She added: “We have been fully open and transparent with the government about our situation and have been direct in our request for assistance.
“We have also been clear that our proposed funding settlement from them includes no recognition of the pressures we face with the escalating cost of, and demand for, adult social care and children’s services respectively.
“We look forward to the next stage of the conversation that this inspection will necessitate.”
Last September Cllr Smith told LGC she was planning to ask the government for permission to overspend its annual budget, as long as it achieves balances within five years.
She added she was “seriously worried” about the future of her local authority’s finances, warning that Northamptonshire was at the point of “stopping everything except the absolute statutory services”.
Northamptonshire’s then chief executive Paul Blantern subsequently resigned the following month after more than seven years’ in the role.
LGC then reported in November how KPMG said 54% of Northamptonshire’s savings proposals were rated ‘red’ or ‘amber’ risks and while overspends in children’s and adult services had been £18.1m and £16.9m respectively for 2016-17.