Northampton

Northamptonshire County Council: 'Remarkable' underspend recorded

About 20 people gathered outside County Hall to protest against cuts.
Image caption Protests have been held outside Northamptonshire County Council over its financial difficulties

A cash-crisis council, which had to ban all but essential spending twice last year, has delivered a balanced budget.

Northamptonshire County Council had faced a £64m deficit, but said it underspent by £4.5m in 2018-19, which its leader called "remarkable".

The Conservative-run authority, which is due to be scrapped in 2021, said the money would be put into its reserves.

It had been allowed to spend £70m of capital funds - normally reserved for infrastructure projects - on services.

The government also gave it permission to raise council tax by 4.99% - 2% more than the 2.99% usually permitted - in order to raise an extra £5.8m for its 2019-20 budget.

The council said it now had nearly £40m in reserves but warned its accounts would need to be externally audited to be fully verified.

'Extremely fragile'

A Section 114 notice, banning all new spending, except on statutory services for protecting vulnerable people, was lifted in March.

The emergency measure - put in place in Northamptonshire twice in a year - had not previously been implemented by any local government in more than two decades.

In 2018, two government-appointed commissioners were sent in to oversee the council which, along with Northamptonshire's seven other local authorities, is to be replaced by two unitary councils.

County Council leader Matt Golby said: "This is a remarkable achievement and goes to show the hard work and commitment of everyone involved in getting our finances back on track.

"While the progress we have made as an organisation in terms of our financial situation is extraordinary, the position we were in was so grave that even with such progress our financial position remains extremely fragile.

"Therefore the hard work will need to continue to make sure we are in a strong position for the transition to the two unitary organisations."

Image caption Northamptonshire County Council twice banned spending in 2018

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