Martin Ford 17 August 2018

Two unitary plan for Northants

Two unitary councils could be created in Northamptonshire under new proposals unveiled.

Responding to a demand from Marsham Street to draw up reorganisation plans, the joint proposals would create a West Northamptonshire Council and a North Northamptonshire Council replacing the seven districts and county council.

The west council, covering a population of 401,996, would include Daventry, Northampton and South Northamptonshire, while the north council would cover East Northamptonshire, Wellingborough, Corby and Kettering, encompassing 343,614 people.

Options for reorganisation were somewhat limited, with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government ruling out a single authority while demanding a minimum population size of 300,000 for any unitary.

The report stressed that the proposals arose ‘not out of a positive ambition for this radical structural change, but instead out of a pragmatic and responsible approach to the Government’s clearly-signalled direction of travel’.

However, the councils point out that reorganisation on its own cannot solve Northamptonshire CC's financial crisis and the unitaries would not be sustainable if saddled with the county council’s debt.

Annual savings of £5.8m for the West unitary area and £6.3m for the North have been projected, but will take time to realise.

The councils also floated the idea of a ‘residual body’ that would take a share of council tax to pay off legacy debts separately to the new authorities’ budgets rather than ‘redistributing the existing financial instability' of Northamptonshire CC across two new organisations.

Consultation found there was widespread support for reorganisation, although there were differences in public opinion over what form it should take.

If two or more councils decide to submit the proposal it will be sent to the Government on 31 August, signed by those who have decided to do so.

The target date for the reorganisation to come into force is April 1 2020.

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