We are writing to express our deepest concern about the impact on people in Northamptonshire of the continuing incompetence in the financial management and political leadership of the County Council. We believe that the Government must act to protect the best interests of the many hundreds of thousands of people who rely on the county council’s services. The level of intervention needed now goes beyond the financial investigation currently taking place, and requires that commissioners are sent in to take over from the County’s Conservative administration which has so dramatically failed.
The crisis which has been building up in the County Council’s finances under the longstanding Conservative administration escalated this week with the serving of a section 114 notice by the Council’s chief finance officer. Such action has not been seen in local government for over 20 years. It’s signal not just of an unprecedented failure of financial management by the administration, but also shows that there is a complete lack of confidence that the administration is able to take the political decisions needed to find a way forward. The issuing of a section 114 notice means that the democratic functioning of the local authority has essentially broken down.
We are especially concerned about the impact of this failure on the most vulnerable people in our community: children in need, the elderly and vulnerable adults. Their services are currently affected by reorganisation and cuts, as are some of the services highly valued by the public, such as the libraries and bus services for our rural communities.
As you will be aware, Northamptonshire has argued that it is unfairly treated by the local government funding formula, and we support the calls for increased funding. However, the administration’s catastrophic mismanagement of services and finances, for example by the building of an expensive new headquarters which is now recommended for sale and leaseback, has precipitated the current crisis. We are therefore asking for the Government to send commissioners into Northamptonshire County Council to take over the executive functions until an administration can be formed that is competent to run the Council’s services on behalf of the people.
Mick Scrimshaw is the Leader of the Labour Group at Kettering Borough Council, the Shadow Cabinet Member for Finance at Northamptonshire County Council. He has a public record of standing up for Kettering as a County Councillor for the Northall division in Kettering, Northants and since May 2015, a Borough Councillor for the William Knibb ward. He is a keen cyclist and also runs a family business with his wife.