William Eichler 03 July 2019

Crisis-hit Northants delivers balanced budget with £4.5m underspend

Crisis-hit Northants delivers balanced budget with £4.5m underspend  image

Northamptonshire County Council yesterday announced it had delivered a balanced budget for this financial year with an underspend of £4.5m.

The county council faced a nearly £65m cash shortfall and was issued two Section 114 notices last year, which meant all spending on non-essential services had to be halted.

In order to make up this shortfall, the council introduced a stabilisation plan which included an increase in council tax and cuts in agency staff and highways services.

They also set up an improvement board to work with Government commissioners.

By April this year, they had found the £65m and the Section 114 notice was lifted.

Yesterday’s announcement means that the authority now has £39.8m in general and earmarked reserves.

The £4.5m balance will be transferred to a budget delivery reserve to support the council’s ongoing financial health in 2019-2020.

‘This is a remarkable achievement and goes to show the hard work and commitment of everyone involved in getting our finances back on track,’ said council leader Matt Golby.

‘Let’s not forget that our financial challenge stood at £64.2m at one point in the past financial year, so to be reporting an end-of-year underspend is a considerable accomplishment.

‘In July when we issued the second Section 114 notice we were forecasting a £30.1m overspend. Since then we have worked tirelessly with our new management team and the Commissioners and we have made solid progress to close this gap.’

In August, prompted by the county council’s financial crisis, Northamptonshire’s eight councils voted to replace themselves with two unitary authorities by 2020.

Cllr Golby said that despite the improvements made over the last year, the council’s financial position ‘remains extremely fragile’.

‘The hard work will need to continue to make sure we are in a strong position for the transition to the two unitary organisations,’ he said.

Leaving nothing to chance image

Leaving nothing to chance

The ‘levelling-up’ Budget is era-defining and ambitious in scope – but we will have to wait until the summer Spending Review to understand the blueprint, says Localis’s Jonathan Werran.
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