Northamptonshire politicians react to Government's investigation of county council finances

Northamptonshire politicians have spoken out after the announcement that an inspector has been commissioned by the Government to look into concerns around financial management at the county council.

Wednesday, 10th January 2018, 3:24 pm
Updated Wednesday, 10th January 2018, 4:04 pm
Clockwise from top: Michael Ellis, Kevin McKeever, Chris Heaton-Harris and Philip Hollobone

Yesterday evening the Secretary of State for housing, communities and local government, Sajid Javid, announced he had appointed inspector Max Caller CBE to complete a report.

The move came after concerns were raised by Conservative MPs in the county after Northampton North MP Michael Ellis spoke out for the first time about the financial situation at County Hall back in October last year.

Speaking on yesterday's announcement, Mr Ellis said: "I have been warning about this crisis of confidence in the financial management and governance of Northamptonshire County Council for some time.

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"This appointment of a commissioned investigator is confirmation that this Government clearly shares the concerns I have previously expressed on behalf of my constituents.

"I remain deeply concerned about the ongoing viability of the council.

"The Secretary of State for housing, communities and local government has done the right thing by making this investigation and I will await the result of the report."

The findings of the report are due by March 16, 2018.

County council leader Heather Smith tweeted she was "100% in favour of the inspection" because it's an opportunity to prove that Northants CC is being unfairly funded.

Kettering MP Philip Hollobone addressed Mr Javid directly in the Commons last month when he asked the Secretary of State whether consideration would be given to restructuring local government.

In response to the inspection announcement, Mr Hollobone said: "I welcome the Government’s inspection. This is a direct result of all seven MPs in the county going to see the Secretary of State for local government at the end of October.

"The county council is clearly in serious financial trouble and the inspection will enable the Government to drill down into the detail of how this has come about and the effectiveness or otherwise of the county council’s plans for dealing with it."

Former Labour candidate for the Northampton South constituency, Kevin McKeever, also shares the concerns of the Conservative MPs.

County council leader Heather Smith tweeted she was "100% in favour of the inspection" because it's an opportunity to prove that Northants CC is being unfairly funded.

"We have had concerns for some time about financial management at Northamptonshire County Council," he said.

"The council has been criticised by both peer review and the external auditors, KPMG. It’s clear too for the public to see examples of waste and mismanagement across Northamptonshire.

"Whilst the arrival of a government inspector is welcome, it does signal a collapse in confidence in the county’s management and political leadership.

"Mismanagement and waste of public funds in this era of austerity is unforgivable. Those responsible must be held to account.”

Daventry MP Chris Heaton-Harris said he and his county colleagues have in the past fought for fairer funding in the county, but after a peer review into the council last year, it became apparent that there were ongoing financial issues.

"As you would expect, like every other MP in the county, I've been campaigning for fairer funding for Northamptonshire County Council since I was elected to Parliament," said Mr Heaton-Harris.

"However, the LGA Peer Review - published last year - highlighted serious deficiencies in the leadership of the council in how it plans and runs its finances.

"And so I am pleased and not surprised the Government has commenced a Best Value Inspection which will investigate these issues further.

"I look forward to seeing the results of the inspection."

Mr Javid called the investigation under powers granted to him under the Local Government Act 1999 which give him the right to commission an independent inspection to better understand whether a council is complying with its ‘best value’ duty – a legal requirement to ensure good governance and effective management of resources.

Mr Caller CBE has a legal right to inspect and take away documents, and to access any council properties.