A troubled Tory-run council “failed to comply with its duty” to deliver services and should be scrapped, independent inspectors have concluded.
A Government report has recommended Northamptonshire County Council (NCC) be partitioned into two new unitary councils after the local authority revealed it was close to effective bankruptcy and was unable to meet its financial obligations.
In a damning report, ordered by Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid, inspectors found that “living within budget constraints was not part of the culture of NCC”.
Max Caller, who led the Government investigation, said: “The problems faced by NCC are now so deep and ingrained that it is not possible to promote a recovery plan that could bring the council back to stability and safety in a reasonable timescale.”
Council leader Heather Smith has resigned following the report’s publication.
Mr Caller has also advised the Government to appoint commissioners 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.
He said: “To change the culture and organisational ethos and to restore balance would, in the judgement of the inspection team, take of the order of five years and require a substantial one-off cash injection. Effectively, it would be a reward for failure.
“Even under a Directions regime, it is not considered likely that councillors and officers would have the strength of purpose to carry through such a long-running programme of recovery potentially crossing two electoral cycles.
“In the meantime, it would be the people of the county who would suffer. A way forward with a clean sheet, leaving all the history behind, is required.”
NCC’s deputy leader Matthew Golby said in a statement that the council accepted the findings and would act accordingly.
He said: “It is clear that the inspector has found what he believes to be significant failings at the council.
“We accept the findings and we will now be acting accordingly and responding directly to the secretary of state.
He added: “While the report accepts the figures we use in arguing our case for fairer funding, it states we are in no worse position than other councils. We would argue that the sector as a whole does face significant financial challenges and we will continue to work with our local government partners to present our case.”