Lawyers Urge Local Authorities To Ensure They Meet Statutory Duties
Northamptonshire County Council must take care to ensure that recently approved cuts do not impact on its ability to carry out the statutory duties expected of all local authorities, according to legal specialists.
The BBC reports that the council has held crisis talks today and has approved an action plan to cut spending even further, as it looks to address a shortfall in funding in the region of £70 million. This is in the context of a recent notice issued by the council warning that it will be unable to balance its budget by the end of the financial year.
Among the services thought to be affected by the move are children’s services, as well as adult social care.
Irwin Mitchell’s specialist Public Law team have vast experience in providing advice and support to those who have been adversely affected by changes to council services, including vulnerable adults and the families of disabled children and have seen first hand the effects of these cuts on vulnerable people.
Commenting on the news, Caroline Barrett, a specialist public lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, said that it was vital that a sensible and lawful approach is taken to any changes.
Expert Opinion“One of the key responsibilities of councils is to comply with statutory duties both in delivering services and in meeting the needs of local people. Many local authorities are currently looking to reduce services to a so-called ‘core offer’, however it remains to be seen whether any further reductions to already stretched services will be lawful and will be sufficient to discharge councils’ statutory duties in this area. For example a council’s duties to meet the needs of disabled adults and children is set out in law – these duties cannot be ignored simply because a council is running out of money.
“It is of course appreciated that council resources at present are very limited and changes to council spending need to be made, however it is absolutely vital that the needs of vulnerable children and adults continue to be met. Compliance with statutory duties is not optional – and we have acted for a number of families who are extremely concerned about the erosion of vital services which they desperately need." Caroline Barrett - Senior Associate Solicitor