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Local Government

Volume 637: debated on Thursday 15 March 2018

On 9 January, I announced to the House the appointment of Max Caller CBE as inspector to conduct an independent inspection of Northamptonshire County Council (NCC) to better understand the NCC’s compliance with its best value duty.

The inspector has today sent me his report which he has also copied to the council. I am placing a copy of that report in the Libraries of both Houses and a copy can be found online at:

The report contains challenging findings:

The inspector has identified that the council has failed to properly comply with its best value duty for some time. This is not because of lack of funds: as the report states, the council’s “Mind the Gap” analysis

“does not demonstrate that NCC has been particularly badly treated by the funding formula”.

The report sets out in some detail the governance failings which have culminated in the council’s chief finance officer issuing a section 114 notice to stop new spending and KPMG’s advisory notice on the council’s budget. It concludes

“living within budget constraints is not part of the culture of NCC”.

These findings appear very serious indeed both for the council and its residents. The inspector has made recommendations for how improvement can be secured. He rules out the option of an internally led strategy and suggests that commissioners should be appointed in the short term to ensure the proper running of the council and delivery of services for its taxpayers, while proposals for restructuring are developed as a longer term solution.

I am grateful to the inspector and his team for the thoroughness of their work and the clarity of their conclusions. I will now consider in detail their report’s findings and proposals for the future. I will make another statement to the House setting out my proposals for next steps, including whether or not to exercise my powers of intervention under section 15 of the 1999 Act, in due course.