MP won’t rule out asking for Northants County Council government bail-out

Corby MP Tom Pursglove
Corby MP Tom Pursglove

Corby’s MP has committed himself to helping the county steer away from its economic apocalypse.

Northamptonshire County Council is facing the most monumental crisis in its 129-year history after it stared down the barrel of bankruptcy twice in the past six months.

The county’s MPs have pulled no punches over the economic disaster - placing the blame squarely at the feet of those who have been in charge of the authority during the past few years.

Indeed, the government’s inspector Max Caller agreed when he delivered a condemnatory report earlier this year, stating that the council had lost control of its budget.

Tom Pursglove was one of seven county Conservative MPs who came under fire from members at Thursday’s crucial Northamptonshire County Council meeting who said that their representatives in parliament should be doing more to help.

But in what appears to be a softening of his stance, he says he will again meet commissioners brought in to scrutinise the financial decisions that the council makes and, although he would not be drawn on whether he will ask for a government bail-out, Mr Pursglove did not say that it was off the table.

He said: “The commissioners have a mandate to go in and try to resolve these problems.

“I’m going to be asking to meet the commissioners because they’re the experts in their field.”

When asked if he would consider asking for a government bail-out, should he feel one was needed, Mr Pursglove said: “I’ll consider that in the light of that meeting.

“We won’t just jump to that. I’ll find out the lie of the land.

“I don’t want to pre-empt that. But if they felt that was appropriate then I would listen very carefully.”

Mr Pursglove first met lead commissioner Tony McArdle a month ago and will today (Monday) meet new county council leader Cllr Matt Golby, who was appointed after former leader Heather Smith walked away from the post following the publication of the Max Caller report.

Mr Pursglove said that the council had already had some extra money this year.

“The county has received additional funds this year. Core spending in Northamptonshire has increased by about 3.5 per cent, which was welcome,” he said.

Of central government spending on local government, Mr Pursglove said he did think the county was getting a raw deal because of outdated way in which grants are decided. He said: “I also welcome the fact that the government is committed to a fairer funding review of local government.

“There are long-standing formulas that have been used for decades.

“I’d strongly suspect we’d benefit (from the review).

“Under the old system, it means that effectively metropolitan areas tend to do better than rural areas. It’s right that we put that right.”

Back in February all of the county’s seven MPs - Mr Pursglove, Philip Hollobone, Peter Bone, Andrea Leadsom, Michael Ellis, Andrew Lewer and Chris Heaton-Harris - issued a statement saying that the NCC situation was ‘self-inflicted.’

But since then, former leader Cllr Heather Smith took part in an explosive interview during which she said four of the county’s MPs had done nothing to help the council and that they would lose their jobs at general election time.

But since then Northampton South MP Andrew Lewer appeared to change his stance and said that he would be asking ministers for a meeting on the funding issues.