There has been lots of commentary on Northamptonshire and its travails. All public bodies are almost exclusively funded by taxation. You would think that would mean that similar standards of budgetary control would be expected of all organisations funded by public taxation.
Northamptonshire (like many other parts of the public sector) has been overspending and the regime Local Government operates in, means that it has had to take drastic measures and will be feeling the full force of regulatory intervention. The same standards are not employed in other parts of the public sector. I cannot see for example, that if Local Government has to set a balanced budget it will need to make hard decisions about spending on social care or other demand led services. The local NHS hospital will respond to the demands it faces and spend what it takes to meet the demands on their service, even where they will not be paid extra for doing so. These two systems of financing and accountability seem to be in conflict. Until everyone is on the same page- it's never going to work effectively.
Northamptonshire raises a wider question about austerity, post Brexit funding and the demands of an elderly population. The country and the government face hard choices. We need transparency of taxation, financing and accountability. The current system of public finance are a 20th century measure addressing 21st century problems. Its inadequacy is being exposed across the public sector with alarming regularity.
So the inevitable has happened and Northamptonshire CC has finally plunged into the abyss, quite possibly for good, by issuing a section 114 notice. Sajid Javid now has to choose whether to bail out this Conservative council, write it off as a lost cause or provide the funding required to make local government as a whole sustainable. The odds would appear to be against the latter option. You don’t need to be a conspiracy theorist to fear last month’s appointment of Max Caller, the former chair of the Local Government Boundary Commission for England, as the inspector to lead intervention in the county heralds its abolition. Mr Caller is surely the best-placed man to recommend whether and how Northamptonshire could be divided up, for instance into two hopefully more sustainable unitary authorities