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Cash-strapped Northamptonshire council ordered to postpone budget vote

Northamptonshire County Council's headquarters Credit: ITV News Anglia.

Auditors have ordered Northamptonshire County Council not to set its budget this week - because it could be illegal.

The cash-strapped local authority was due to vote on its spending plans for the next year and decide how much to charge tax payers at a meeting on Thursday.

A ban on emergency spending has already been enforced and the council has had to agree to sell-off its new £52m headquarters in Northampton, thanks to a multi-million pound black hole in its finances.

But today, auditors KPMG served a notice on the council telling members that voting on a budget for 2018/19 "would be unlawful and likely to cause a loss or deficiency".

Instead, councillors will have to discuss what to do next on Thursday and push back its budget vote for another week.

Explaining its decision, KPMG called into question estimates made by the council about how much money it would need to spend next year, and where that money would come from.

"Under the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014 and the 2015 Code of Audit Practice, the auditor is required to reach a conclusion each year as to whether the authority has made proper arrangements to secure economy, efficiency and effectiveness in its use of resources."

– KPMG

KPMG said it had already raised concerns about the authority's ability to provide "value for money" in previous years and pointed out: "Since we reached these conclusions, the authority's financial position has significantly deteriorated."

Northamptonshire County Council's headquarters Credit: ITV News Anglia.

A spokesman for Northamptonshire County Council said it was very much aware of its poor financial situation.

"We have been clear that there are risks in our budget proposals for 2018/19 given this funding position and the on-going demand pressures we face.

"Given the severity of our financial position we are having to maximise the use of capital receipts as encouraged by the government to enable us to transform and protect statutory services. We have worked hard to ensure that the budget proposals being put forward for next year are accurate and realistic."

– Northamptonshire County Council

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