Government help may be needed for cost of new children's trust for Northamptonshire

Children's services are currently overseen by the county council, but will be soon be the responsibility of a new trust
Children's services are currently overseen by the county council, but will be soon be the responsibility of a new trust

Government help may be needed to fund the cost of setting up a new trust to oversee children’s services in Northamptonshire.

The admission came from county council leader Matt Golby during a debate on how much the transformation to two new unitary councils in 2021 would cost.

The county council’s overview and scrutiny committee was told that the cost of establishing the trust, which was announced by Secretary of State for local government James Brokenshire, was not included in the £43million budget estimate for the two new councils.

Speaking at the overview and scrutiny committee on Wednesday (May 29), which was analysing the finances, Conservative councillor Adam Brown said: “It’s not been clarified whether the proposed funding includes the children’s trust. The £43million figure is not a recent figure, and the prospect of a children’s trust was not in the public domain at the time.

“Can we be confident of the £43million figure given the requirement of setting up the children’s trust?”

Councillor Golby replied: “The work has not been done on the costing of the children’s trust. We will ask the government to see if they can help with the costs of that.”

Children's Services will become a standalone trust which will deliver services for the two new unitary authorities, which will replace the county council and the seven district/borough councils.

Councillor Brown also asked whether the new authority would retain oversight of the new trust.

He said: “There has been talk of services being outsourced to other authorities. For me, it would be wrong that taxpayers pay for these services while the county would have no democratic oversight.”

In a recent report to both the education and local government secretaries, the council’s children’s commission Malcolm Newsam said: “In considering alternative delivery models, I had anticipated that there would be little appetite from other authorities to take on the accountability for Northamptonshire’s children’s services. However, I recently received a formal expression of interest from one council.”

But Councillor Golby said that those proposals were now off the table, adding: “The whole thing has moved on since then, and the children’s commissioners have now discounted that. We will still have oversight and it will be our role and responsibility, but will be delivered by the trust.”