William Eichler 23 March 2018

Cash-strapped Northants criticised for paying £900,000 to former CEO’s firm

Northamptonshire County Council has been criticised for paying over £900,000 to a consultancy firm owned by Damon Lawrenson, who was then handed the role of interim chief executive.

Northamptonshire CC paid £931,364 to Mr Lawrenson’s firm, DDL Consultancy, between 2008/9 and 2017/18. Around £560,000 of this cost was incurred between 2008/09 and 2010/11.

Mr Lawrenson was also appointed the council’s interim chief executive last November in a process where, the union GMB found through a freedom of information request, no other candidates were shortlisted or even considered for the role.

The struggling authority issued a section 114 order last month, calling a halt to spending due to the ‘severe financial challenge’ it was facing. According to estimates, the council faced a £157m cash shortfall between 2006 and 2020.

The auditor KPMG also issued an advisory notice to the council warning it would be in breach of the Local Audit & Accountability Act 2014 if it signed off on its budget. It subsequently revised its budget announcing cuts of £10m.

Mr Lawrenson left his post as chief executive ‘by mutual consent’ yesterday after just five months in the job.

‘For Northamptonshire County Council to splurge almost £1m on consultancy while people are losing their jobs and services are being cut is a real kick in the teeth,’ said Rachelle Wilkins, GMB organiser.

‘And what makes it worse is this cash was paid to a company owned by Damon Lawrenson – who has already trousered north of £1,000 a day during his five months as stand-in CEO.’

A spokesman for Northamptonshire County Council said: ‘Salaries reflect responsibilities associated with the posts, many of which require highly-qualified, professional staff, while being mindful of the necessity of providing value for money.

‘It must be noted that about £560k was incurred in the three years between 2008/09 and 2010/11. Additionally, as a contractor Damon is not eligible for sick-pay, holiday pay or pension contributions.’

‘NCC’s bankruptcy was cooked in up Whitehall by the Conservative’s failed austerity agenda,’ GMB’s Ms Wilkins continued.

‘But the staggering financial incompetence of the Tory council has made a bad situation much, much worse.

‘Under the Conservatives our public services have been weakened, conditions for the workforce have deteriorated meanwhile fat cats like Damon Lawrenson have got richer.’

For more on Northamptonshire's financial problems see our feature, 'Where next for Northants?'.

Image: Jevanto Productions / Shutterstock.com.

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