Northamptonshire is leaving hundreds of children at greater risk of harm, scathing UN report into austerity finds
The ongoing financial meltdown at Northamptonshire County Council has now drawn the attention of the United Nations as part of a damning report on UK austerity.
Prof Philip Alston, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, made special mention of the local authority following his recent fact-finding mission to the UK - which has described as a “social calamity and an economic disaster”.
The academic toured Britain to produce a report on poverty in the fifth richest economy in the world.
The resulting paper, published on Friday (November 15), is a damning indictment of the UK’s austerity policies, which he says are inflicting ‘unnecessary misery’ on the poorest here.
His report heavily criticises cuts to local councils and Universal Credit - the new streamlined benefits system being rolled out across the country and launched in Northampton last Wednesdsay.
"Local governments are even struggling with the basic services they are statutorily obligated to provide,” he states.
“Northamptonshire County Council has twice this year issued a formal notice indicating that it was at risk of unlawfully spending more than the resources it has available.
“As a result, there are concerns that hundreds of vulnerable children are at greater risk of harm due to rapidly deteriorating frontline child protection services.”
It is not the first time Northamptonshire County Council has attracted international attention - with recent reports in the New York Times and New Yorker having described the difficulties at the authority.
According to the UN, 14 million people in the UK are said to be living in poverty and recent figures show some 11, 934 children are living below the breadline in Northampton alone.
The report says the reasons for this are partly down to the ever decreasing amount the Government gives to local councils.
"Local authorities, especially in England, which perform vital roles in providing a real social safety net have been gutted by a series of government policies," he said.
"Libraries have closed in record numbers, community and youth centres have been shrunk and underfunded, public spaces and buildings including parks and recreation centres have been sold off."
On Universal Credit, which is in-built with a five-week delay between a claim being made and money being paid out, Prof Alston added: “The reforms have almost certainly cost the country far more than their proponents will admit.
“The many billions advertised as having been extracted from the benefits system since 2010 have been offset by the additional resources required to fund emergency services by families and the community, by local government, by doctors and hospital accident and emergency centres, and even by the ever-shrinking and under-funded police force.”
To read the UN report in full, which has now been shared around 370,000 times, click here.