Northants County Council CAN live within its means - commissioner

Tony McArdle, Northamptonshire County Council commissioner, being interviewed by Channel 4s Michael Crick. NNL-181008-105843005
Tony McArdle, Northamptonshire County Council commissioner, being interviewed by Channel 4s Michael Crick. NNL-181008-105843005

The man charged with the untangling the Byzantine financial affairs of Northamptonshire County Council says he believes the authority can drag itself back into the black.

Tony McArdle is one of two commissioners sent in by the government after the authority said it may not balance its books. He and his colleague Brian Roberts are costing the authority £1,500 for every day that they work.

Northamptonshire County Council Commissioner Tony McArdle NNL-181008-105904005

Northamptonshire County Council Commissioner Tony McArdle NNL-181008-105904005

During yesterday’s crucial county hall meeting, during which councillors agreed a ‘hierarchy of cuts’ to help save up to £40m in this financial year, some councillors questioned why the authority could afford to pay commissioners when they couldn’t afford to protect the vulnerable.

Cllr Dennis Meredith told the commissioners to ‘go back to London’.

Despite this, council leader Cllr Matt Golby said that the council was committed to working with the commissioners to find a way back from the mess it finds itself in.

Speaking outside the meeting, Mr McArdle said: “What the council is seeking to do is to give itself a proper platform to move forward.

“The Secretary of State was the one who decided to send commissioners in to Northamptonshire County Council. He did so because he saw that there was something going wrong here.

“There’s obviously a cost attached to having us here.

“But if we’re effective then I would hope that people would regard it as value for money.

“The authority has found itself in a very, very difficult position.

“But it can live within its means.

“We’re here to ensure it balances its books.”

The commissioners do not have any powers to decide policy, but can step in if they think something illegal is happening.

Mr McArdle said he would have no hesitancy doing so if he needed to.

“We have powers to take the authority to task but we certainly believe that if the authority makes the right decisions itself, with guidance and advice and support from us, then there will be no need.”

He said that they had received a positive response from councillors so far.

“The council welcomed our appointment. There was a realisation from the Max Caller report that things hadn’t been run well.

“But we don’t want to be here any longer than we need to be. We’re part-time in order to reflect the cost to this authority.

“We really want to make sure this authority makes good decisions and balances its books.”