A number of LGSS staff will be returning to the direct control of Northamptonshire County Council as it comes to grips with the full extent of its finances.
The professional finance and democratic services teams working for Northamptonshire will be repatriated back to One Angel Square, after councillors on the LGSS Joint Committee agreed to the changes in Milton Keynes yesterday afternoon (August 30).
County council chief finance officer Mark McLaughlin wrote in the meeting papers: “The interests of improving the financial management of NCC at this most crucial time is best served by placing the professional finance team under the direct line management of the NCC S151 Officer.
“It has been concluded that the democratic services team should also be restored to the line management of the NCC monitoring officer.”
He added at the meeting: “The suggestions is that the democratic services team of 10 people and the professional finances team for NCC are repatriated to the direct control of the county council, which is where they should have been all along in my professional opinion.”
Northamptonshire councillor Andy Mercer, referring to the unitary authority proposals being voted on this week, said that ‘the process of splitting Northamptonshire has irrevocably started, and we have forensic accountants crawling all over us’.
He said: “If I was to tell you how high up we are being watched you wouldn’t believe it. Westminster is already getting fidgety that they have not seen substantive action, and they will be telling us to get on with it.
“As a result the commissioners want as much clarity as possible, and on the financial side they have to have control and centralisation simply so that they can go through this process of complete reorganisation.
“If we don’t make substantial progress in the next month someone will come in with a machete and slash and burn.”
LGSS runs shared services for the council alongside Cambridgeshire and Milton Keynes, and the repatriation sparked debate amongst councillors from those regions.
Cambridgeshire councillor Sebastian Kindersley said: “This does go to the very heart of LGSS as perceived by the public. The fact that the split is being required by forensic accountants does imply that the financial arrangements between LGSS and these councils are not clear or simply.
“In this report there’s a quote from Max Caller where it says the relationship ‘confuses accountability and at worst impedes it’. We should all be mindful of that because if we can’t sort that out quickly then LGSS should be brought to its swift and merciful conclusion.”
LGSS managing director Sarah Homer said that the repatriation of services back to Northamptonshire ‘would not affect any other roles’ at LGSS, as long as the other current arrangements remain as they are.