Local government secretary Sajid Javid has bowed to the inevitable and outlined plans for commissioners to run Northamptonshire CC amid concerns over the county’s sustainability.
Mr Javid announced wide-ranging intervention proposals for Northamptonshire on 27 March, less than two weeks after independent reviewer Max Caller filed a highly critical Best Value inspection report on the county’s governance and finances.
The secretary of state has said he will listen to any opposition to the plans, but added he is ‘minded’ to proceed with heavy intervention.
He also invited proposals to reorganise local government across the county.
On 27 March, Mr Javid told Parliament that Mr Caller’s review had presented a ‘compelling’ case for overhauling Northamptonshire because it had ‘identified multiple apparent failures’ to comply with local government’s Best Value duties – and added that the county had no credible plan to improve.
Despite the severity of budget cuts suffered by Northampton since public austerity began, Mr Javid said the council’s woes ‘are not down to a lack of funding, or because it is being treated unfairly or is uniquely disadvantaged’.
‘I am therefore minded to appoint commissioners to oversee the authority. From day one, I propose they take direct control over the council’s financial management and overall governance. I also propose giving them reserve powers to act as they see fit across the entirety of the authority’s functions,’ he told the House of Commons.
A spokesman for Northamptonshire CC said: 'We welcome this announcement and the clarification of the views of the secretary of state and the potential direction of travel for Northamptonshire. We view this as an opportunity for a fresh start in our working relationship with the government and the county’s MPs.
'We also welcome the invitation for submissions for unitary governance in the county. We have long maintained that this county needs a reorganisation of local government and we see today’s invitation for submissions as a further opportunity for us to work alongside our district and borough colleagues to find the best solutions for the county.'
Rob Whiteman, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, said: 'It is right for the government to act to ensure there is financial leadership of Northamptonshire CC and also to call for local proposals on the future of the authority.
'Whatever the decision on the shape the reforms take, it is crucial that we learn the principle lessons from the county council’s failure.'