Northamptonshire County Council only fourth authority subject of special inspection

Northamptonshire County Council is only the fourth authority to be the subject of a special investigation similar to the one ordered by Sajid Javid this week.

Friday, 12th January 2018, 6:00 am
Sajid Javid (Picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

On Tuesday evening the Secretary of State for housing, communities and local government announced he had appointed inspector Max Caller CBE to complete a report, as per powers granted to Mr Javid under the Local Government Act 1999.

Mr Javid has called the inspection to specifically look at whether the council was complying with its ‘best value’ duty - a legal requirement to ensure good governance and effective management of resources.

“Once the inspection is complete, I will carefully consider the inspection report," said Mr Javid.

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"If it shows that the council is in breach of its best value duty I will then consider whether or not to exercise my powers of intervention under section 15 of the 1999 Act.”

As alluded to by the secretary of state, the Government has the capacity to intervene and take control of council services should the situation be so bad as to require the measure.

Three other instances of inspections have been called under the same section of the Local Government Act.

In 2014 a report found systemic failings in the conduct and governance of Tower Hamlets council in east London, and claimed its approach to an inquiry into financial dealings was one of “obfuscation and denial”.

The report criticised the authority for failing to acquire best value for its taxpayers.

Mr Pickles ordered in accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers in April to inspect the grant-making process, sale of properties, governance arrangements and spending on publicity following allegations of favouritism to some communities.

In the wake of the report, the Government took over the administration of the council for two years.

Three commissioners were sent to oversee grant-giving, appointments, property deals and the administration of future elections in the borough.

Mr Pickles instigated another special investigation into Rotherham's council after reports of child sexual exploitation.

The report concluded the council was not fit for purpose and was more concerned about protecting its own reputation than its most vulnerable citizens.

Its cabinet resigned immediately after publication of the report, and the Government ordered commissioners to take over the council duties, which were later gradually restored to the council.

Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council was also the subject of a corporate governance intervention, which saw the Government assume control of children’s services for four years.

The Government had intervened in 2010 after an independent inspection raised concerns about the council’s governance and performance.

The report said the inspection was undertaken “because of repeated evidence, over more than 15 years, that the council is not well run”.