NEWS
01/08/2018 23:55 BST | Updated 02/08/2018 10:15 BST

Fury As Northamptonshire County Council Holds Crisis Talks Amid Fears Of Drastic Cutbacks

Labour says Tory-controlled authority is at the 'vanguard of the austerity project'.

Angry residents gathered outside an emergency meeting of a cash-strapped council to protest about proposed cuts to services for vulnerable children and adults.

Tory-controlled Northamptonshire County Council is struggling to meet its legal budgetary duties and needs to save £7m by next March.

The council, which has imposed spending controls twice so far this year, was slammed for being at the “vanguard of the austerity project”. 

Dozens of people gathered outside county hall prior to the meeting to oppose cuts to services, with banners reading: “You bailed out the banks, you bailed out the DUP, you can bail out Northampton”.

During the meeting, which started at 5.30pm members, the public were give two-minute slots to give their comments on the financial situation.

Many took the opportunity to call for Conservative council leader Matthew Golby to resign with immediate effect. 

Pat Markey, a teacher, said: “The cuts that we have faced over the last few years and the cuts that are about to happen are criminal.”

One woman who relies on disabled adult care said she had been “struggling for years to secure the care that I need”.

She said the reasons for her struggles were due to a “disgustingly low” rate that carers were offered to work.

Golby said: “The emotive nature of the speakers came out and I try to respect their views.

“We have got to take our own responsibility… and we welcome criticism and challenge.

“We know that the quantum of the challenge financially is huge… but we are going to do everything within our powers to win back the confidence and trust of people from Northamptonshire to get this council back on track.”

He added: “This is a massive task we are being asked to look at this evening… but I welcome some constructive feedback and challenge from opposition members. We want everybody to go back and take responsibility… for the people of Northamptonshire.” 

PA Wire/PA Images
Northamptonshire County Council leader Matthew Golby

Labour councillor John McGee said that the local authority will be “on the brink of providing illegal services to the vulnerable people of Northamptonshire”.

“We have to look backwards to learn the lessons – while we are trying to make these cuts we know we don’t have any money in reserves,” McGee said.

“I’m not going to agree to priorities like (vulnerable adult and child services) – and I’m going to see how we can support the most vulnerable.

“We spent tens of millions trying to privatise public services but they should have been kept in here.”

Labour councillor Mick Scrimshaw also opposed the council’s propositions and said: “There’s not a cat in hell’s chance that this year’s budget will actually balance.

“We need to send a clear and strong message to the government – we cannot manage because of stupid local decisions… and this administration is to blame for that.

“We are at the vanguard of the austerity project. I think that is just an excuse by some to reduce the powers and size of local government – the real agenda is to cut and cut and cut so we can go cap-in-hand to government.”

But Conservative councillor Rob Gough urged support for the new proposals on cuts and said: “Throwing money at the problem like we have in the past is not going to solve the issue.

“Does anyone actually believe the next £5, £10, £15 million would actually solve this problem?

“We cannot balance the books by fleecing the tax payer. Why should they suffer for the folly of the state?”

He added: “We should be supporting the council leader and the chief executive and make sure we make the cuts that need to be made.”

Of the 57 Northamptonshire county councillors, only 43 were present at the meeting.

Earlier this year a taskforce of commissioners were drafted in to run the crisis-hit council after the authority was declared officially bankrupt.