The Government minister who has appointed two commissioners to run Northamptonshire County Council’s finances says the council was ‘unlikely’ to be able to solve its own problems.
In a statement, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government James Brokenshire MP said that the county’s failures were not down to a lack of funding, but because the authority failed to get a grip on its own finances.
He also said he is not ruling sending in more commissioners to help out.
James Brokenshire’s statement says: “As Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, seeing strong, effective and sustainable local government is a priority for me.
“When I was appointed to the role just over a week ago, I knew I would have to make tough decisions – just as I did when I was Northern Ireland Secretary.
“One of the first was the decision to appoint commissioners to oversee Northamptonshire County Council.
“My predecessor had sent in an independent inspector when serious concerns were raised about the council’s finances and its ability to deliver the best value to the people of Northamptonshire.
“The inspector reported that legitimate questions from councillors had gone unanswered, key meetings were unrecorded and concerns raised, within the council and externally, were ignored.
“Councils have faced many challenges in recent years, but the inspector concluded that Northamptonshire’s failures were not down to a lack of funding or because it is uniquely disadvantaged compared to other local authorities.
“He said that it had failed to get a grip on its finances for several years and the Council was unlikely to solve these problems itself.
“It was clear from his report that we had to act. It’s therefore with regret that I am sending in commissioners to help turn the situation around.
“The commissioners will run large parts of the council, drawing on their considerable expertise. One is a long-serving and effective council chief executive and the other is a financial expert. They will be in post as long as is necessary and I have not ruled out appointing extra commissioners.
“In doing so, I want to reassure the community essential services will continue to be delivered. This will not be an easy process, but I am confident that this decisive action will result in a stronger, better Northamptonshire that’s fit for the future.
“I am keen to work with the council to stabilise the situation and, in line with the inspector’s report, see it move on and reorganise in a way that really works for residents.
“So I am inviting Northamptonshire County Council and the district and borough councils in the area to submit proposals that meet the criteria for local government restructuring: namely that they improve local government, are based on a credible geography and command a good deal of local support.
“I expect these proposals to be informed by a broad public consultation to ensure that the area’s future is led by the local community.
“Effective local government is the backbone of our democracy. Northamptonshire needs a fresh start and that is exactly what I have given it.”