Most vulnerable in Northamptonshire most likely to pay price for council's problems says healthwatch chair

Dr David N Jones
Dr David N Jones

The chairman of Northamptonshire Healthwatch says the county's most vulnerable people will be the ones to pay the price for the council's ongoing financial problems.

Northamptonshire County Council needs to find £70 million to balance its books after its chief finance officer was forced to issue an unprecedented second section 114 notice last month.

And this week, during an extraordinary meeting, cabinet members debated which statutory services would be protected and prioritised by the cash-strapped authority.

Speaking at Northamptonshire Healthwatch's annual meeting on July 19 its chairman, Dr David N Jones, said: "Adult and children’s social care now takes the largest part of the county council budget so the need to find more savings can only mean less help will be available for those who need it most.

"It is deeply worrying that the most vulnerable people in Northamptonshire are likely to pay the price for the council’s problems."

Healthwatch volunteers voiced concern about the potential loss of early help services for struggling families, which could mean more children will come into care and the risk of serious child abuse increases.

The volunteers believe savings around early help will only postpone crises and add to costs later on.

There was also concern at the impact on elderly and disabled people of cuts in social care support, rural bus services, road gritting and libraries.

"There is an urgent need to strengthen community support services for older people as the hospitals are struggling to cope and this only adds to the NHS funding crisis," Dr Jones said.

"The reforms in local government and the health service in Northamptonshire cannot be driven in an exclusively top down way. The voice of local people and especially those who use services must be heard."

Kate Holt, CEO of Healthwatch Northamptonshire, added: "Following on from the extraordinary council meeting yesterday (August 1), it is imperative that all county councillors, whatever their political party, use their knowledge and expertise to work together with staff in the best interests of the people of Northamptonshire."