Northampton

Labour plea over £133m Northamptonshire council debt

One Angel Square, Northamptonshire County Council HQ
Image caption Northamptonshire County Council's says it is stabilising its budget despite claims it faces a £133m deficit

A £133m hole in a cash-strapped county council's budget will need government help to clear, a group of Labour politicians has claimed.

Ten party members in Northamptonshire have written to Communities Secretary James Brokenshire demanding money to transform the failed county council.

Northamptonshire should also be allowed to use capital receipts to help fund the deficit, the group said.

The county council said it was "moving firmly towards stabilising its budget".

A government study has said Northamptonshire should have two new unitary authorities by 2020.

One will cover Daventry, Northampton and South Northamptonshire and the other Corby, East Northamptonshire, Kettering and Wellingborough.

The Labour politicians do not want either of these new bodies to begin life with a heavy debt and say they want to protect children's services.

The group lobbying the government includes Bob Scott, the Labour Party group leader on the county council; Sally Keeble, prospective parliamentary candidate (PCC) for Northampton North; Beth Miller, PCC for Corby and East Northamptonshire; and Gareth Eales, PCC for Northampton South, as well as council party leaders from across the county.

They are also demanding a public inquiry into what went wrong with Northamptonshire's finances so lessons can be learned and mistakes avoided in the future.

The government has installed commissioners to run the county council and turn its finances around.

A spokesman said: "These are unprecedented times for us and as such we need a robust plan to address the financial challenges we now face.

"The stabilisation plan alongside our latest financial reports show how we are now moving firmly towards stabilising our budget position.

"A great deal of work has been done with the commissioners to make sure we move towards financial stability."

A Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesman said:" We recognise the seriousness of the situation at Northamptonshire County Council, which is why we sent in commissioners to help them to resolve their financial situation and ensure they set a balanced budget.

"The council has statutory duties ‎towards children and adults which they must fulfil, and they have said keeping vulnerable people safe is one of their priorities."

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