Responding to the Best Value inspection report on Northamptonshire, CCN Chairman Cllr Paul Carter said;
“Today’s report clearly highlights that serious financial and managerial mistakes were made at Northamptonshire, significantly exacerbating the already difficult financial position many councils find themselves in. With the council failing to deliver overly-ambitious transformation plans, it should provide food for thought for those in local government looking at unproven quick fixes to financial challenges.
“The financial climate Northamptonshire and many other upper-tier councils find themselves in is important context. Last week’s NAO report warned that one in ten social care authorities could become financially unsustainable within three years under current trends. Counties face a £2.54bn funding gap and while other counties are not in the position of Northants, it is essential the Government provide additional resources later this year to meet our growing demands.
“One of the solutions laid out by Max Caller is to reduce and reorganise the number of councils in Northamptonshire. The report rightly calls for a fresh start and recognises that a unitary the size of Northants could be effective. But regrettably he rules out this option being explored.
““Independent evidence clearly points towards abolishing all councils and replacing them with a single county unitary, as was recently announced in Buckinghamshire. This option will save up to £106m per year over five years in Northamptonshire; 68% more than two unitaries. It also provides the platform to ensure we maximise the resources dedicate to key frontline services such as children’s and adult social care, rather than breaking them up and adding additional costs, complexity and risks. Any new council will also be better placed to work with the health services at scale to integrate services and work with private sector partners to drive regional growth.
“With any reorganisation resulting in an entirely new authority and the fresh start Max Caller calls for, we simply cannot disregard this evidence in Northamptionshire or any other county exploring reform, with the risk that we fragment and duplicate services and fail to deliver sustainable authorities.
“It is important that the local area comes together to determine the best way forward based on evidence. As we await a final decision by the Government, the County Councils Network will continue to provide support to the county council and work with a wider range of authorities, including our existing unitary members, to explore the best way forward.”