Government must step in and run Northamptonshire County Council after Tory leadership's 'catastrophic failings', says Labour

Leader of the council Heather Smith and her cabinet has been accused of "catastrophic failures" by Northamptonshire's labour group.
Leader of the council Heather Smith and her cabinet has been accused of "catastrophic failures" by Northamptonshire's labour group.

Labour parliamentary candidates have called on the communities secretary to step in and run Northamptonshire County Council after the authority imposed spending controls on itself yesterday.

An open letter sent to Sajid Javid this morning say commissioners should be called in to run services because of "catastrophic failings" by the leadership at One Angel Square.

Inspectors have recommended that the county has its spending powers limited to only essential spending.

Inspectors have recommended that the county has its spending powers limited to only essential spending.

Yesterday the county council's chief finance officer issued a section 114 notice, limiting the council to only essential spending.

But the Labour letter signatories, Beth Miller, Gareth Eales and Sally Keeble say there is now a "complete lack of confidence" in the Tory administration.

It reads: "We are writing to express our deepest concern about the impact on people in Northamptonshire of the continuing incompetence in the financial management and political leadership of the county council.

"We believe that the Government must act to protect the best interests of the many hundreds of thousands of people who rely on the county council’s services."

Labour has written to communities secretary Savid Javid to have the Government step in and run the county council.

Labour has written to communities secretary Savid Javid to have the Government step in and run the county council.

At the end of December, the council reported it was likely to overspend by £8.7 million.

At the same time, county chiefs launched plans to increase council tax by almost five per cent in order to make savings of £34.3m.

And last week plans were launched to sell the new £53 million headquarters in Angel Street only months after its official opening to make up the shortfall.

On January 9 Mr Javid, whose job is to oversee the operations of local councils in the UK, sent in an inspector to find out whether the authority was failing the taxpayer.

That investigation is believed to be weeks away from conclusion.

The section 114 notice is believed to be the first imposed by a local council for 20 years.

"We are especially concerned about the impact of this failure on the most vulnerable people in our community," the Labour letter continues.

"Children in need, the elderly and vulnerable adults. Their services are currently affected by reorganisation and cuts, as are some of the services highly valued by the public, such as the libraries and bus services for our rural communities."

"The Conservative administration argues that Northamptonshire continues to get an unfair portion of Government.

But the Labour parliamentary candidates say this cannot be used as an excuse.

The letter adds: "The administration’s catastrophic mismanagement of services and finances, for example by the building of an expensive new headquarters which is now recommended for sale and leaseback, has precipitated the current crisis."