The spending controls imposed on Northamptonshire CC reflect the severe financial strain on county councils which must be immediately addressed by the government, the chair of the County Councils Network has warned.
Paul Carter (Con), who is also leader of Kent CC, said counties had faced the largest reductions in funding at a time of increased demand for social care services and called for the government to act ahead of delivering the final local government finance settlement, expected on Tuesday.
On Friday Northamptonshire CC issued a section 114 notice imposing immediate spending controls due to the severe financial challenge facing the Conservative-controlled authority, with a significant risk that the authority will not be able to deliver a balanced budget by the end of the year.
The direction means no new expenditure is permitted, with the exception of statutory services for safeguarding vulnerable people.
Cllr Carter said: “Northamptonshire, like other counties, has worked hard to balance the books.
“But this first 114 notice issued by a council [in almost 20 years] demonstrates the severe financial pressures counties are facing.
“County authorities face the deepest reductions in funding and demand-led pressures in adult social care.
“This is placing immense strain on local budgets after years of financial restraint.”
Cllr Carter added that Northamptonshire is not only the lowest funded county council but the council tax freeze grant policy, which was introduced by the coalition government and saw councils receive a grant equivalent to a 1% increase if they opted not to increase bills, had left the local authority £23.6m worse off each year.
He added: “CCN will now support Northamptonshire over the coming period but with the local government settlement, the government must take action to provide additional funding to county authorities.
“This would provide short-term relief to councils to meet the rising costs in adults and children’s social care.”
LGC reported last week how a group of Conservative backbench MPs are threatening to rebel against the government if more money for social care is not found.
Northamptonshire councillors have 21 days to discuss the implications of the section 114 notice and this is due to be addressed at a meeting of full council on 22 February.
Last month housing and communities secretary Sajid Javid used powers granted under the Local Government Act 1999 to commission an inspector to examine concerns regarding Northamptonshire CC’s financial management and governance.