Northamptonshire County Council pays bailiffs for photocopier debt

A cash-strapped council had to use a credit card to pay a bill of nearly £40,000 for photocopiers after bailiffs arrived at its head office.

Northamptonshire County Council, which effectively went bankrupt in 2018, is set to be scrapped and replaced by two unitary authorities.

Bailiffs arrived at its Northampton headquarters in mid-November to collect the £37,500.

The council said the “incident was the subject of a long-standing dispute”.

The BBC has discovered the Conservative-controlled authority has been issued with six “unsatisfied” county court judgements (CCJs) since 2016, totalling more than £100,000.

A source said bailiffs arrived at the council’s One Angel Square head office with a CCJ, thought to relate to a seven-year-old debt for photocopiers.

The source said the authority had tried to make a payment, but it had not been received in time.

Instead, the debt had to be paid in person using a council credit card.

A search of the Registry Trust – which maintains a record of CCJs – found seven further judgements against the council since 2016.

One, for £179, was listed as “satisfied”.

The other six, totalling £101,416 and including £50,000 from May 2019, were listed as “unsatisfied”.

The county council’s net revenue budget for 2020-21 is £445m.

Financial expert Abhishek Sachdev said he was “shocked and surprised”.

Mr Sachdev, who runs a financial consultancy and is chairman of Hertsmere Council’s audit committee, said: “This is absolutely symptomatic of their problems.

“You could explain one judgement, but not so many. I’ve never come across anything like this.”

A council spokesman said the CCJs recorded by the Registry Trust were “historic”, adding: “Our accounts payable team have no outstanding cases.”

He said: “Suppliers can trust the county council to pay its bills.”

The spokesman called the number of incidents “very small compared to the amount of suppliers we have over this period”.

He added the latest incident was “a long-standing dispute about historical equipment that was in the process of payment”.

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