The UK Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government has appointed an inspector to assess a local council’s financial management and governance.
Sajid Javid has sent the inspector, Max Caller, to Northamptonshire County Council’s district to assess its financial department to carry out investigation and furnish a report to him by 16 March, or a later date agreed upon by the two.
The aim of the probe would be to get a better understanding of whether Northamptonshire County Council is acting in accordance with its ‘best value’ duty.
Javid, in a written statement to the Parliament, said that the concerns over the council’s performance have been there for some time now. He added that in recent months, various reports have been published, which cast a doubt on whether the authority is complying with its best value duty.
The Secretary of State cited the “adverse” value for money opinion given by KPMG, in the role of an external auditor, on certain accounts of the council. These include the 2015/16 and 2016/17 accounts, budget documents that are in public domain, along with the Local Government Association peer review in September 2017 into the financial planning and management of the council.
Javid had acted under the powers granted to him under the Local Government Act 1999 in commissioning an independent inspection. He said: “My decision to appoint an inspector is not taken lightly. I hope it sends a strong signal that robust processes are in place to investigate allegations of failures in financial management and governance in local government.”
Furthermore, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government said that he had decided to appoint an inspector to probe into the allegations after carefully considering the evidence available to him. Caller will be legally entitled to inspect and will have the right to take away documents. As the appointed inspector, he will also have access to any council properties.
Council leader Heather Smith said: “We have been very clear with senior Government ministers and civil servants about the issues facing the county and the growing financial pressures we are facing.
“This announcement means they will be coming to the county to assess the situation for themselves and be able to see how we have continued to deliver public services in an ever challenging financial context.
“We have been fully open and transparent with the Government about our situation and have been direct in our request for assistance.”