Moves being made to avert ‘financial crisis’ at Northamptonshire County Council this year

Councillor Bill Parker says work is being done to avert a financial crisis at Northamptonshire County Council.
Councillor Bill Parker says work is being done to avert a financial crisis at Northamptonshire County Council.

Cash-strapped Northamptonshire County Council will reveal how it is working to avoid a £17.5 million budget black hole this year at next week’s cabinet meeting.

Last month the authority announced that a bid to slash £68 million from the 2015/16 year could fall more than £36 million short, prompting fears the authority was in the midst of a financial crisis.

Projections showed it was on course to overspend on its target budget by £17.5 million by April, even if it took more than £19 million out of a pot of reserves in order to plug the budget hole.

However cabinet member for finance Councillor Bill Parker, has said that the council is now “on track” to make £59 million of those savings after a monitoring report revealed that work is being done by the council’s departments to claw back the overspend - though reserves would still need to be raided.

He said: “At the start of the year, we set out to make savings of £68 million this financial year. We are already on track to deliver £59 million of those proposed savings and as part of our regular budget review process we have identified £9 million of savings that still need to be achieved.

“Despite facing an unprecedented increase in demand for services and ever-reducing central government funding, this latest monitoring report shows it is clearly heading in the right direction.”

The Conservative-led county council said an unforeseen increase in demand on adult social services and children’s services had put a huge strain on resources this year.

Other factors, such as an 80 per cent rise in the number of unaccompanied asylum seekers coming to Northamptonshire, have also had an effect on finances.

A paper set to go before the cabinet on Tuesday states that in terms of adult social care: “There is continued work in progress to manage the demand and provide alternative mitigating actions to recover the financial position before the end of the financial year.”

However the paper also outlines that currently only 41 of the total 65 proposals the council announced to cut £68 million from its budget this financial year, are classed as low risk and “deliverable”.

On Tuesday, Councillor Parker will announce proposals for the 2016/17 year budget, which will likely outline a number of fresh cost-slashing measures as the grant the council receives from government is set to dwindle by £81 million by 2020.