Northamptonshire residents have been warned to brace themselves for a series of further cuts to services as the county council seeks to stop itself from going under.
Cabinet leader for finance Michael Clarke has issued his strongest alert yet that the services currently provided are to be cut to the bone and only those the council is required by law to provide will remain.
A big announcement is expected to be made at a meeting at County Hall on August 1 when the Conservative-run cabinet will outline what measures it is taking over the coming months to make sure it can continue to operate.
Speaking at yesterday’s finance scrutiny meeting Conservative Cllr Clarke said some very serious and unpopular service cuts were coming.
He said: “To put it in biblical terms, there will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth.
“There will be lots of dissatisfaction and unhappiness.
“It is a tough call for everybody involved.
“But we are seeking to stabilise the council.
“We have to take an iron chancellor view of things as we don’t have reserves to fall back on.
“The culture in the county council has been one of tolerance of financial laxity.
“Reserves were used for demand-led services.
“They have not been replenished and this was never addressed.”
Widespread cuts have already been made to services this year on top of a series of cuts in previous years.
21 of the county’s 36 libraries are under threat, many of the county’s roads won’t be gritted this winter, hundreds of staff will be losing their jobs, road maintenance will be affected and Trading Standards will be vastly reduced.
This is to save £35m this year and a further £50m of savings are needed for next year.
In May 2020 it is expected that the council will be abolished and a unitary governance system introduced to Northamptonshire to replace the current two-tier system.
Cllr Clarke said cabinet members and senior officers were keeping a very close eye on spending and ‘addressing overspends as a matter of urgency’ but that making the books balance this year would be difficult.
He said: “But be in no doubt, achieved it must be.
“We will have to look at the core purpose of the council and the statutory responsibilities.
“We will look at the requirements placed on us by law and our priorities will be looking after vulnerable children and vulnerable adults.”
The meeting heard that the two commissioners appointed by central government, Tony McArdle and Brian Roberts, have been looking at historical financial issues within the council.
Cllr Clarke said Brian Roberts had commissioned a study by the Chartered Institute of Public Chartered Accountants because he could not rely on the figures that he was presented with by the council when he took up his post at the end of May.
The CIPFA report is expected to be given to the council by the end of the month.