“Tory-controlled Northamptonshire county council, which declared itself effectively bankrupt last month, paid its acting chief executive more than £1,000 a day, it has emerged.
Damon Lawrenson had been interim chief executive at the council since November, having previously acted as temporary finance director at the council since October 2016. Lawrenson left the council this week “by mutual consent”.
Northamptonshire was heavily criticised in a recent government inspector’s report, which identified deep-rooted management and governance failures over the past four years as the prime cause of its financial problems.
The report highlighted what it called the council’s “sloppy” approach to financial management and lack of realism in business planning. It called for a clear-out of the existing leadership in order to restore stability to the council.
A freedom of information (FOI) request by the GMB union revealed that the council paid out £371,000 to DDL Consultancy, owned by Lawrenson, during 2016-17 and 2017-18. His company had earlier been paid a further £540,000 between 2008 and 2011, when he had stints as assistant chief executive and commercial director.
The local government secretary, Sajid Javid, is considering the report’s recommendation that the county be run by a team of Whitehall-appointed commissioners until it can be scrapped, along with seven local district councils, and replaced by two new smaller unitary authorities.
The council, which recently warned that its overstretched adults social care services were “on the verge of being unsafe” issued a section 114 notice in February, signalling that its finances were unsustainable. It banned non-urgent spending, and pushed through £40m of cuts plans, including the closure of 21 out of 36 libraries.
A GMB official, Rachelle Wilkins, said: “For Northamptonshire county council to splurge almost £1m on consultancy while people are losing their jobs and services are being cut is a real kick in the teeth.”
A spokesman for Northamptonshire county council said: “Salaries reflect responsibilities associated with the posts, many of which require highly-qualified, professional staff, while being mindful of the necessity of providing value for money.
“It must be noted that about £560k was incurred in the three years between 2008/09 and 2010/11. Additionally, as a contractor Damon is not eligible for sick pay, holiday pay or pension contributions.” …