Daventry council’s leader Chris Millar says there needs to be a collective call for a cash injection into the county in the face of the financial troubles at the county council coupled with a government imposed move to a unitary model of local government that will see two new super councils replace the existing eight.
The county’s public services are in a precarious position as the county council struggles to balance its budget while millions are also being committed by the eight Northamptonshire councils setting up the two new organisations.
The government has not given any additional funds into the county to help with reorganisation and is expecting the councils to find the way out of the mess themselves. This has largely involved Northamptonshire County Council heavily cutting public services at the same time as raising local taxes.
Speaking at the health and wellbeing board in Northampton earlier today (Oct 10) Chris Millar said it is clear that more funds are needed to make sure public services can operate properly. He said county council senior officers were ‘fighting against a tsunami’ to try and overcome the financial woes. Currently the council is £7m over budget in children’s services and is predicting it will spend £4m above its £417m annual budget.
He said: “There is not enough money in the system in Northamptonshire. I have always said the best way is honesty and we all know locally that it is going to be very difficult. We are at that critical moment where someone is going to have to stand up and be counted and we need more money from government.
“I think it’s time we as a collective in Northants say ‘we need more money’”.
He added: “The last thing we want to do is set up two unitaries and they fail in the first two years.”
Mr Millar, who will be standing down at the end of the month, said the county’s eight leaders would be meeting with Northamptonshire’s seven Conservative MPs next month to ‘thrash out a way forward’.
Leader of the county council Cllr Matt Golby, who was at the meeting said he agreed with almost everything Cllr Millar said, but that the county council also needed to make sure it was more efficient and was securing better contract deals. He admitted that ‘services are at a lower level than they should be’.
A high profile call for cash as part of a ‘fairer funding’ deal for Northamptonshire was unheeded by government just before the council collapsed in spring last year.
Plans are moving ahead for the unitaries despite the change not yet being made law as yet. The councils have been given indication by government officials it could go through parliament and into the law books by Christmas but the Brexit debacle is holding things up.
At the meeting chief executive of Daventry council Vincent said “until the government agrees this we are running at significant risk.”
He said the law could be finalised with as little as 25 days before the planned election to two new shadow councils in May next year.