The first meeting of Northamptonshire County Council’s new scrutiny task force took place this week, with councillors grilling officers over savings in services for adults with learning disabilities.
The new overview and scrutiny committee, chaired by Labour councillor Mick Scrimshaw, met at County Hall on Wednesday afternoon, where they also discussed the collection of business rates and council tax.
All those areas have been identified for savings in the county council’s ‘stabilisation plan’, which tackles ‘overspend’ over the next two financial years.
The rejig of the scrutiny committees follows direct advice from the Centre for Public Scrutiny (CfPS) to improve decision making, and now consists of 15 councillors from all political parties to scrutinise key decisions and budget proposals.
The county council’s director of adult social services, Anna Earnshaw, faced councillors to discuss proposals on the commissioning of learning disability services.
After questions from councillors, she said the average costs for people with a learning disability was around £70,000 per year, but that Northamptonshire currently paid around £20,000 more for packages than other councils in the East Midlands region.
Mrs Earnshaw said a new framework would aim to reduce the costs of current placements, without cutting the service itself.
Councillor Scrimshaw questioned: “There are significant savings identified here a year. Is this just by doing things differently, or are there not going to be any cuts? If not, then why were we not doing this before?”
Mrs Earnshaw commented that there was now a ‘wider commissioning team with wider social care support’ that would now allow them to achieve the savings.
The new committee is set to meet every month.