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Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Commissioners ordered to take control of troubled Tory council

Written by Dan O'Donoghue and Elizabeth Arnold

Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid has ordered commissioners to take control of a troubled Tory-run council.

An independent report, published earlier this month, found Northamptonshire County Council (NCC) had "failed to comply with its duty" to deliver services and concluded it should be scrapped.

Mr Javid, speaking in the Commons, agreed with the conclusions and told MPs he would be giving inspectors "reserve powers to act as they see fit" in a bid to get the authority back on track.

Max Caller, who led the Government investigation, said: "The problems faced by NCC are now so deep and ingrained that it is not possible to promote a recovery plan that could bring the council back to stability and safety in a reasonable timescale."

He added: "A way forward with a clean sheet, leaving all the history behind, is required."

Mr Javid, who quoted Mr Caller extensively in a Commons statement, said: "I am therefore minded to appoint commissioners to oversee the authority.

"From day one I propose that they take direct control over the council's financial management and overall governance, getting these basics right must be the first step in stabilising the authority.

"I also propose giving them reserve powers to act as they see fit across the entirety of the authority's functions if they consider that they must step in."

Shadow local government secretary Andrew Gwynne said the council's failure was an "indictment" of the Government's austerity.

He said: "The best value inspection of Northamptonshire Council of the 15th March makes very sorry reading and it is an indictment of mismanagement locally, but also of eight years of intransigence and austerity nationally."

He added: "This is what happens when a government has created a £5.8 billion gap in local government funding.

"When everyone is saying that social care is on its knees and when children's services need an additional £2 billion. Local government cannot be allowed to collapse on this Government's watch."

Mr Javid claimed Mr Gwynne was "very disappointed" by the report, adding: "What he wanted was a report that he could use for party political purposes, so he could play his favourite game - political football."

He added that Mr Gwynne "conveniently ignored" the history of local government interventions as he listed other Labour councils.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) PA Wire.