Northampton

Northamptonshire County Council: 'Radical' service cuts planned

Protesters outside Northamptonshire County Council
Image caption Scores of residents gathered outside Northamptonshire County Council headquarters to protest over proposed cuts

A cash-strapped local authority has proposed "radical service reductions" to tackle its financial crisis.

Northamptonshire County Council said it must save up to £70m by March, and held an emergency meeting on Wednesday.

Its "action plan", revealed on Thursday, involves possible cuts in adult social care, children's services, road maintenance and school transport.

Council leader Matthew Golby said the plan "includes rigorous controls on spending, recruitment and contracts".

The proposals will be discussed at a full council meeting on 9 August.

The Conservative-led authority has been forced to impose spending controls twice in six months, as its finances are in a "truly perilous state".

The report said the council would be looking to make savings in areas including:

  • Children's services - looking at factors for high numbers of referrals and high numbers in the care system
  • Adult services - examining learning difficulties, fees and charges and NHS contributions
  • Road maintenance and transport - including home to school transport
  • Waste management
  • Culture
  • Staff redundancy
Image caption Northamptonshire County Council has been forced to sell its £53m HQ, which it moved in to in October

Bosses have vowed to protect children and vulnerable adults but the action plan said they would be looking at factors causing high numbers of children in the care system, and "examining" the services it provides to adults with learning difficulties, including NHS contributions.

There would also be "extended spending controls" including approval for any spend over £1,000.

Mr Golby said the authority faced "incredibly challenging times" and there were "going to be some very difficult decisions ahead for Northamptonshire".

The council is working "hard to bring our spending under control while doing our very best to protect services for the most vulnerable in our communities," he added.

Angry residents gathered outside Wednesday's meeting at County Hall, with one public speaker describing the situation as a "shambles" and demanding Mr Golby resigned.

Labour councillor John McGee said at the meeting proposed cuts would leave the authority "on the brink of providing illegal services to the vulnerable people of Northamptonshire".

Image caption Children protested outside Desborough Library during a consultation on possible library closures

Meanwhile, a decision on the future of 21 libraries at risk of closure has been put on hold.

Two separate legal actions have been lodged against planned cuts to funding, and community groups have registered their interest in taking over the running of 17 of the libraries.

The council said more time was needed to speak to the groups amid ongoing decisions about future spending.

A spokesman said: "Any closures - whether temporary or otherwise - will now not take place until there has been further consideration of the issues and the outcome of this work is known."

The authority is expected to be replaced with a new, unitary council in 2020.

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