Local government secretary Sajid Javid has ordered a best value inspection of Conservative-led Northamptonshire CC amid continuing concerns over its financial management and corporate governance.
In a written ministerial statement this week, Mr Javid revealed he had exercised his powers under the Local Government Act to ask former Hackney LBC chief executive Max Caller to carry out an inspection of Northamptonshire’s compliance with its best value duty.
Mr Javid said he hoped his decision to send in an inspector – the first step on a path that could lead to intervention - would send a ‘strong signal that robust processes are in place to investigate allegations of failures in financial management and governance in local government’.
Northamptonshire CC has been beset by financial difficulties and the slow pace of reform delivered by its Next Generation model.
A Local Government Association (LGA) peer review team warned in September that ‘time is running out’ for the council, which was ‘heading towards major financial problems’.
The LGA warned: ‘The peer team got the sense that the council is banking on the hope that it will be bailed out in 2019/20 because it believes other councils may also find themselves in a similar position.’
After the review team’s visit, Northamptonshire’s long-serving chief executive, Paul Blantern, left the authority and was replaced by interim group director of finance, Damon Lawrenson, on an interim basis.
Just weeks after taking over, Mr Lawrenson told The MJ: ‘In-year performance is extremely challenging.’