“Northamptonshire county council’s catastrophic financial collapse, and the desperate measures it now proposes to balance the books, reflect management incompetence on a grand scale as well as the punishing effects of eight years of austerity cuts.
Less than six months after it was declared technically insolvent, the Tory-run council now faces a sobering reckoning for a reckless half-decade in which it refused to raise council tax to pay for the soaring costs of social care, preferring to patch up budget holes with accounting ruses and inappropriate use of financial reserves.
Over the next few weeks the council will map out where previously unheard-of levels of cuts will fall. There are no concrete details yet, other than a promise that its future “core offer” to residents will be a bare legal minimum of service, focused only on the most vulnerable residents.
No services will go unscathed, even in priority areas like child protection that have up to now been relatively insulated. There are no easy cuts left to make: the council says hard savings must be dug out of the most essential services. What will remain is what one observer wryly called “a people-not-dying level of service”. …
… Once a low-tax Tory flagship council, touting itself as the future of local government, Northamptonshire is now bust. Its core offer warns residents, with unwitting pathos, that the most they can expect in future is “a reasonable level of customer service, within our means.”