Northampton

Northamptonshire County Council: £8m of planned savings target to be missed

One Angel Square, Northamptonshire County Council HQ
Image caption Northamptonshire County Council twice banned spending in 2018

Finances at a cash-crisis council are still not on track, with forecasts predicting £8m of £41m savings needed in 2019-20 will not be made.

After its financial collapse in 2018, Northamptonshire County Council will cease to exist from spring 2021, with two new unitary authorities planned.

The Conservative-run authority set out planned savings in its February budget.

But the council's scrutiny committee heard £5.8m of planned children's services savings looked unachievable.

Paul Helsby, the council officer overseeing a "transformation programme" at the local authority, said only about 80% of targeted spending reductions would be made before April, the Local Democracy Reporting Service said.

He told the meeting "a number of things" had happened since February's budget was set, including an Ofsted inspection which resulted in a new government commissioner being appointed.

'Kicking the can'

Michael Clarke, who was finance officer at the council after it twice banned any new spending last year, said he was concerned by the slippage in planned savings.

"This sounds very much to me like kicking the can down the road." he said.

When questioned whether the original savings plan was overly optimistic, Mr Helsby said they had been based on the information available at the time.

The savings issues comes after a report to the council's cabinet earlier this month announced the funding gap for the next financial year was £34.9m - an increase of £23.7m on what was thought earlier this year.

The overall budget approved by the council is £411m for 2019-20.

The council will be scrapped in 2021 - along with Northamptonshire's seven borough and district councils - when two new unitary councils come in.

The estimated cost of the transition is upwards of £60m.

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