A bankrupt Tory council has admitted it can’t meet its current expenditure and has little confidence it can steer itself out of danger in the near future.
Northamptonshire County Council held emergency talks on Thursday amid concerns that key services, including those impacting children, would be cut to plug a £70 million shortfall.
Those fears led to a member of the public telling councillors earlier today that slashing spending would leave “blood on your hands”.
The government sent in commissioners to run Northamptonshire in April after the authority revealed a projected overspend of £21m for 2017-18.
The council was then forced to issue a second spending control order - a section 114 notice - to stave off a projected budget shortfall of £60m-£70m this financial year.
The council today voted in favour of agreeing with the chief finance officer’s decision to issue the notice which means that no new expenditure is permitted, with the exception of safeguarding vulnerable people and statutory services.
Summarising the debate, council leader Matthew Golby said: “We have got to make sure that we provide the services we can and that we aren’t putting people at risk – and we as a council will not be putting people at risk.
“Do we understand the implications? Yes. Our role is to ensure we are providing the services we can.
“Frankly, we are not going to give up. It is the most challenging thing me and my colleagues have ever been faced with.”
A member of the public, Bianca Todd, who spoke before the action plan was discussed, said: “There are county councillors who are not here today. You have got to be kidding me. We’re making national news.
“When people die this winter, because they will die this winter, the blood will be on your hands.”
Opposition councillors reiterated their objection to the proposed actions of the local authority.
Labour’s Bob Scott said: “We will try and fight and challenge to try and mitigate the disaster the Tories have made both nationally and locally. We will not vote to harm the people of Northamptonshire.”
Liberal Democrat councillor Chris Stanbra said: “(One of the paragraphs in the report read) ‘knowingly adopting unachievable savings’. People knew … that they were unachievable.
“But we need to know who knew, chair. That is absolutely vital.”
Speaking in support of the proposed cuts, Conservative councillor Michael Clarke said people should not underestimate the gravity of the problem the council finds itself in.
He said: “It is necessary to safeguard the future of our council. We are currently coming down like a tonne of bricks on costs.
“We have far too many huge numbers which we have carried over from the past.”
Labour councillor John McGhee described Clarke’s words as “sickening” and that he got “so angry I thought about not coming”.
Other councils face similar issues, with East Sussex planning service cuts to a legal minimum “core offer”, the BBC reported.