Tonight's (Wednesday) debate on priority areas of spending is the first step of a rapidly evolving budget recovery programme being developed by Northamptonshire County Council.
Last week the council issued its section 114 notice barring non-statutory spend and warning that the authority will need to find up to £70m of savings in the current financial year if it is to balance its books.
The council has a clear plan on how it will approach the process of realigning its budget to ensure it can live within its own means and tonight's debate around what the council's spending priorities should be starts this process.
Leader of the council Cllr Matt Golby said: "In many ways we are now at the starting point of the very long journey of realigning our budget. Last week's Section 114 notice is the first time where there is complete clarity shared by us, the government and the external expertise at CIPFA of the scale of the challenge we face. This was critical if we were to ever have a chance of rising to this challenge.
"A dedicated team will be established within the council to lead on this work. The new priorities being discussed and agreed by councillors over these next two weeks – first tonight and then at Cabinet on August 14 - will be used to assess all spend across council services and identify where savings can be made.
"Of course 70 per cent of the council's spend is through contracts with third party suppliers and a large piece of this work will be to review all of these contracts against the new priorities on a contract by contract basis.
"We will be open and fully transparent with the results of this work which will include painful but necessary decisions."
There are three key meetings in the next month which will determine the future direction of the council and its Budget Recovery Programme.
- Tonight (Wednesday) Full Council will discuss a paper around what the council's spending priorities should be.
- On August 9 another meeting of Full Council will be held to discuss and approve the council's response to the issuing of the Section 114 notice.
- On August 14 Cabinet will formally agree to the council's priorities.