Campaigners launch desperate bailout pleas as service and job cuts loom at Northamptonshire County Council

A bailout is the only way to rescue Northamptonshire's financial crisis, according to Save Northants Services campaigner Paul Crofts.
A bailout is the only way to rescue Northamptonshire's financial crisis, according to Save Northants Services campaigner Paul Crofts.

Campaigners and a workers union have called on the Government to bail out Northamptonshire County Council ahead of tonight's extraordinary council meeting.

At 5.30pm the authority will meet to discuss ways of reducing its output to a set of "core services", after it was revealed the council would need to make a further £70 million of cuts to its budget this year.

The council is set to hold a crunch meeting at 5.30pm tonight to discuss what its 'core services' will be going forward.

The council is set to hold a crunch meeting at 5.30pm tonight to discuss what its 'core services' will be going forward.

An audit committee last week heard how children's services would likely be the worst hit area - but papers for tonight's meeting suggest the council will have to reduce its offer in all areas, from adult social care to roads maintenance.

Another Section 114 notice was imposed on the authority last week barring it from entering into any new spending agreements.

A protest is planned outside of County Hall at 4.30pm led by Save Northants Services, which is likely to be well attended.

Campaigner for the group, Paul Crofts, said the only option now is for the council to receive a multi-million pound bailout from the Government to get it through this financial year.

Unison branch secretary Penny Smith has also called for a bailout ahead of tonight's meeting.

Unison branch secretary Penny Smith has also called for a bailout ahead of tonight's meeting.

"The county council budget is now half what it was in 2010," he said.

"It means the county council is bust, it is unsustainable. The reductions are going to cause significant harm to lots of people.

"How dare the Government allow this to happen. The bailout is the only way."

Mr Crofts said a briefing paper for tonight's meeting in particular makes for worrying reading.

It proposes the council should only provide care and support for children who have suffered "significant harm", as well as providing 'sufficient' maintenance for highways, 'minimum' statutory obligations for archives and records and a 'limited' number of household waste disposal centres.

Mr Crofts said: "We still just don't know what is a core service and what isn't?

"The libraries used to be a core service - does that mean they are going to close even more libraries?

"There is talk about a reduction to waste recycling services. Does that mean they are going to close recycling centres across the county? Reduce it to just the one maybe?

"The wording is so vague and non-specific.

"The papers talk about protecting children in significant harm - but what about those just at risk of harm, will the council not intervene?"

Workers union Unison has also called on the Government to deliver an emergency bailout - with the reduction in services likely to put many jobs at risk.

Secretary for the Northamptonshire County Council branch of Unison, Penny Smith, said: "The county council is once again letting the most vulnerable people in the county down, and putting their health and well-being at risk.

“Despite the best efforts of Council staff to keep people safe and provide services under difficult circumstances, local residents will increasingly struggle to receive the most basic of services. And attacking employees at a time when the Council is already relying on their goodwill is a disgraceful move.

“This has now gone too far. The Council is at risk of failing to keep children and vulnerable people safe. This could cost lives."