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Cash-strapped county council imposes emergency spending controls

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid was warned Northamptonshire’s finances were “unsustainable”.

A cash-strapped council has imposed emergency spending controls after warning that it faces a “severe financial challenge”.

Conservative-controlled Northamptonshire County Council said it has issued a section 114 notice banning all new expenditure apart from statutory services for safeguarding vulnerable people.

In a statement, the council said: “The notice has been served in light of the severe financial challenge facing the authority and the significant risk that it will not be in a position to deliver a balanced budget by the end of the year.”

Council leader Heather Smith said they had been warning ministers for years that their position was “unsustainable”, and had raised her concerns directly with Communities Secretary Sajid Javid shortly before Christmas.

“We have been warning Government since about 2013-14 that with our financial position we couldn’t cope with the level of cuts that we were facing,” she told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

“Before Christmas I did write to the Secretary of State to say that we were about to fall over the edge of the cliff. We can’t just increase council tax. We have a cap on us.”

For Labour, shadow communities secretary Andrew Gwynne said: “The failure of this Tory-run council shows that their approach to managing our public services doesn’t work.

“There have been deeply worrying reports for a number of months that this council was failing in its duty to the people of Northamptonshire – and now these people will pay the price for this negligence.”

A Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesman said: “We recently appointed an independent inspector to look at Northamptonshire County Council’s finances.

“This is a decision for the authority, and it would not be appropriate for us to comment while the inspection is ongoing.”

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