Northamptonshire County Council
Northamptonshire County Council was the county council that governed the non-metropolitan county of Northamptonshire in England. It was originally formed in 1889 by the Local Government Act 1888, recreated in 1974 by the Local Government Act 1972 and abolished in 2021. The headquarters of the council was County Hall in Northampton.
Northamptonshire County Council
|Founded||1 April 1889|
|Disbanded||31 March 2021|
|4 May 2017|
|County Hall, Northampton|
As a non-metropolitan county council, the council was responsible for education, social services, libraries, main roads, public transport policy and fire services, trading standards, waste disposal and strategic planning.
In early 2018, the Council announced it was effectively insolvent. Subsequently, a report by Government Inspectors concluded that problems at the council were so deep-rooted that it should be abolished and replaced by two smaller authorities.
In February 2020, the Northamptonshire (Structural Changes) Order 2020 was enacted, which on 1 April 2021 abolished Northamptonshire County Council and the district councils and created two unitary district councils, known as 'North Northamptonshire Council' and 'West Northamptonshire Council'.
Northamptonshire County Council was first formed in 1889 as a result of the Local Government Act 1888, covering Northamptonshire, with the exceptions of the borough of Northampton, which became a county borough, and the Soke of Peterborough, which was made its own administrative county. This arrangement changed in 1974 when, following the Local Government Act 1972, a newly constituted Northamptonshire County Council was formed for the non-metropolitan county of Northamptonshire. First elections to the new authority were in April 1973, and the council took office on 1 April 1974.
From its recreation in 1974, the county council administered the newly formed non-metropolitan county of Northamptonshire, including Northampton. This area did not include the area of the Soke of Peterborough. During 1990s local government reform, Northampton tried to obtain unitary authority status, but failed. Between 1974 and 2021, there were three tiers of local government: the county council; seven lower-tier councils, comprising four borough councils (Corby, Kettering, Northampton, Wellingborough) and three district councils (Daventry, East Northamptonshire, South Northamptonshire); and more than 250 parish councils.
Northamptonshire County Council operated executive arrangements in the form of a Leader and Cabinet system from 2001. In December 2008, the council chose to adopt the revised Executive Leader and Cabinet arrangement.
The Council was composed of 57 councillors, each representing a single-member division. Elections were held every four years; the last in 2017.
Northamptonshire County Council's cabinet was composed of seven councillors and the Leader of the council.
Districts and BoroughsEdit
- Corby Borough Council
- Daventry District Council
- East Northamptonshire District Council
- Kettering Borough Council
- Northampton Borough Council
- South Northamptonshire District Council
- Borough Council of Wellingborough
These district councils were responsible for local planning and building control, local roads, council housing, environmental health, markets and fairs, refuse collection and recycling, cemeteries and crematoria, leisure services, parks, and tourism.
Political control of the county council was held by the following groups:
|1981||No overall control|
|1985||No overall control|
|1989||No overall control|
At abolition, the council comprised 57 councillors. Each councillor typically served for a four-year term, representing an electoral division. Each electoral division elected one councillor by the first-past-the-post system of election. The composition of the county council, following the 2017 election, was 43 Conservative councillors, 12 Labour councillors, and 2 Liberal Democrat councillors.
|Corby Rural||Conservative||Sandra Naden-Horley|
|Corby West||Labour||Julie Brookfield|
|Oakley||Liberal Democrat||Chris Stanbra|
|Braunston And Crick||Conservative||Malcolm Longley|
|Daventry East||Conservative||Amy Howard|
|Daventry West||Conservative||Richard Auger|
|Long Buckby||Conservative||Steve Osborne|
|Woodford And Weedon||Conservative||Robin Brown|
|Higham Ferrers / Rushden North||Conservative||Jason Smithers|
|Rushden Pemberton West||Conservative||Michael Tye|
|Rushden South||Conservative||Andy Mercer|
|Burton And Broughton||Conservative||Chris Smith-Haynes|
|Clover Hill||Conservative||Bill Parker|
|Rothwell And Mawsley||Conservative||James Hakewill|
|Abington And Phippsville||Labour||Danielle Stone|
|Billing And Rectory Farm||Conservative||Andrew Kilbride|
|Boothville And Parklands||Conservative||Mike Hallam|
|Dallington Spencer||Labour||Gareth Eales|
|Delapre And Rushmere||Independent||Julie Davenport|
|Duston East||Conservative||Suresh Patel|
|Duston West And St Crispin||Conservative||Matthew Golby|
|East Hunsbury And Shelfleys||Conservative||Andre Gonzalez de Savage|
|Kingsthorpe North||Conservative||Sam Rumens|
|Kingsthorpe South||Labour||Jane Birch|
|Nene Valley||Conservative||Lizzy Bowen|
|Riverside Park||Conservative||Stephen Legg|
|St George||Labour||Rachel Cooley|
|Talavera||Liberal Democrat||Dennis Meredith|
|Hackleton And Grange Park||Conservative||Michael Clarke|
|Middleton Cheney||Conservative||Rebecca Breese|
|Towcester And Roade||Conservative||Adil Sadygov|
|Brickhill And Queensway||Conservative||Jonathan Ekins|
|Croyland And Swanspool||Conservative||Graham Lawman|
|Earls Barton||Conservative||Rob Gough|
|Hatton Park||Conservative||Malcolm Waters|
Early in 2018 the county council announced that it "was effectively insolvent."
In March 2018, a government-appointed investigator's report into financial and management failures at the authority recommended the council be broken up. It said the problems at the council were so deep-rooted that it was impossible to rescue it in its current form, and to do so "would be a reward for failure". It recommended that ministers send in a team of external commissioners to take over the day-to-day running of the council until it can be broken up and replaced with two new smaller authorities. The report rejected the council leadership's claim that it had been disadvantaged by government funding cuts and underfunded. It condemned the council's attempt to restructure services by outsourcing them to private companies and charities (the Next Generation Programme). It described the council's budgeting as "an exercise of hope rather than expectation".
To save money, Northamptonshire Council was planning to cut services even for vulnerable people including vulnerable children. Austerity measures are blamed for the insolvency, as is the council's refusal to raise council tax despite the rising costs of providing social services. For half a decade the council used 'accounting ruses' and used financial services inappropriately. In future the council is to provide the legal minimum of services, focused on the most vulnerable—though it is unclear what the minimum will be, or how vulnerable people will be required to be to receive services. The council must find savings of £70m out of its £441m budget during the coming few months, and further savings of £54m during 2019-20.
Cuts were considered for children's services, adult services (investigating learning difficulties, fees, charges and NHS contributions), road maintenance and transport (including school buses), waste management, and culture; staff redundancies were also considered. There are to be planned widespread cuts to jobs and services, owing to a funding shortfall of £70m. Proposed cuts to Northamptonshire's library service were challenged in court. A judge reminded the councillors that they have a statutory duty to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service. The judge ruled that the council had not put enough time and effort into establishing whether the reduced service would meet their statutory duties, and ruled the cuts could not currently go ahead as proposed. The cuts are causing hardship to some families with special needs.
Ofsted severely criticised what it saw as inadequate protection for at risk children, 267 young people were waiting up to four months for assessment and for a social worker. Remedial action by management did not have 'sufficient urgency or rigour'. Social workers responsible for child protection maintained they were, "overwhelmed" and "drowning" from pressure of increasing demand. Some professionals were struggling with caseloads of between 30 and 50 children. The council was not in a well placed to invest heavily in turning child protection services round as preventing bankruptcy is a major priority.
The budget cuts proposed in August 2018 were intended to save £70m from the £441m budget in 2018 and an additional £54m savings in 2019-20. As a result, the council expected to be able to provide only the "bare legal minimum of service, focused only on the most vulnerable residents ... No services will go unscathed, even in priority areas like child protection".
Some of the responsibility for the de facto bankruptcy (Section 114) of Northamptonshire must be accepted by the council, according to The Guardian which described "a reckless half-decade in which it refused to raise council tax to pay for the soaring costs of social care, preferring to patch up budget holes with accounting ruses and inappropriate use of financial reserves". Some observers, such as Simon Edwards of the County Councils Network, added another perspective on the cause of the financial crisis, discussing the United Kingdom government austerity programme. "It is clear that, partly due to past failings, the council is now having to make some drastic decisions to reduce services to a core offer. However, we can’t ignore that some of the underlying causes of the challenges facing Northamptonshire, such as dramatic reductions to council budgets and severe demand for services, mean county authorities across the country face funding pressures of £3.2bn over the next two years." Andrew Gwynne, the shadow secretary of state for communities and local government, provided this comment. "Government cuts are pushing our councils into crisis, and the crisis in Northamptonshire is the canary in the coal mine. Despite one of their own councils effectively declaring themselves bankrupt twice this year, we have yet to see [the] government recognise the appalling consequences of their austerity programme for people up and down the country". 
In January 2019 the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government gave the council permission to raise its council tax by 5% in 2019–20 without the requirement for a local referendum.
Between 2013 and 2016, the Council's children's services were in special measures after being rated as inadequate by Ofsted. In 2016, the service was updated to "requires improvement" and it was taken out of special measures.
In June 2019, the County's children's services were rated "inadequate" by Ofsted inspectors. The report found that there were "highly vulnerable children in care who are living in unregulated placements that are unsafe and unsuitable". Earlier in the same month, two serious case reviews found that council's child protection services had failed to protect two murdered children.
- The Northamptonshire (Structural Changes) Order 2020
- "New cabinet member for crisis-hit children's service is 'ready for challenge'". northamptonchron.co.uk.
- Butler, Patrick (6 February 2018). "Northamptonshire's cash crisis is a taste of things to come for councils - Patrick Butler". The Guardian.
- Butler, Patrick (15 March 2018). "Scrap Northamptonshire county council, inspectors say". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
- Paul Lynch (15 March 2018). "Breaking News: Northamptonshire County Council's finance chief sacked after refusing to resign". Northampton Chronicle.
- Patrick Butler (31 July 2018). "Fears cash-strapped council may cut services for vulnerable children". The Guardian.
- Patrick Butler (1 August 2018). "Northamptonshire forced to pay the price of a reckless half-decade". The Guardian.
- "Northamptonshire County Council: 'Radical' service cuts planned". BBC News. 2 August 2018.
- "Northamptonshire council backs 'radical' cuts to services". BBC News. 9 August 2018.
- Alison Flood (14 August 2018). "Family claims win in high court challenge to Northants library cuts". The Guardian.
- Hannah Richardson (13 September 2018). "How children's services cuts are affecting one family". BBC News.
- Ofsted criticises child protection services at crisis-hit council The Guardian
- Butler, Patrick (1 August 2018). "Northamptonshire's cash crisis driven by ideological folly, councillors told". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 September 2018.
Unless we rapidly see a change of direction, Northamptonshire will not be the last council in crisis, and the people of Northants will not be the last to have to bear the burden for Tory neglect.
- "Northamptonshire County Council: Five per cent council tax rise considered". BBC News. 29 January 2019.
- Patrick Butler (29 January 2019). "Northamptonshire's bankrupt council given OK for 2% tax hike". The Guardian.
- editor, Patrick Butler Social policy (29 July 2019). "Northamptonshire social services failing to keep children safe, says Ofsted". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 30 July 2019.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
- "Under-fire council 'failing to keep children safe'". 29 July 2019. Retrieved 30 July 2019.