Councils publish Northamptonshire unitary proposal

17 Aug 18

Councils in Northamptonshire have put forward their joint proposal for two new unitary authorities.

The proposal, published by Northamptonshire County Council today, have been drawn up in response to a government report, which suggested moving from a two-tier to unitary structure in the county could help ease financial pressure on the council.

The document said: “The districts and boroughs have been clear that they would not be making a collective proposal for a unitary local government without the secretary of state’s intervention.”

But the local authorities said unitary governance could make savings in the following areas:


  • A reduction in senior and middle management posts.

  • An overall streamlining in corporate functions and a limited number of services; a reduction in IT licence costs, based on the level of staff reduction; and reduced running and maintenance costs for property.

  • Democratic savings, based on a reduction in the overall number of councillors and the ending of county elections.


The councils’ report warned: “Unless significant problems can be addressed, there is a risk of creating two new organisations that are significantly challenged from the outset and cannot build the capacity and culture to capitalise on the opportunity to make a change in local public service delivery”.

The proposal, outlined in a document produced by PwC, suggested a west unitary authority including Daventry, Northampton and South Northamptonshire, with a total population of 400,000.

A north unitary would include Corby, East Northamptonshire, Kettering and Wellingborough, with a population of 350,000.

The secretary of state for housing, communities and local government stipulated that each authority must have a minimum population of 300,000.

The government’s criteria for unitary proposals said: “Only one proposal will be accepted; it must demonstrate clear potential for savings; it must command a good deal of local support; due consideration should be given to the recommendations in the Best value Report and any solution should prioritise the government’s wider housing and growth agenda.”

Northamptonshire County Council’s members will now meet on 28 August to discuss the proposal.


January 2018 – Then communities secretary Sajid Javid sends in the inspector Max Caller to investigate the council’s financial management

February 2018 – The council issues the first Section 114 notice in 20 years, banning all spending except on statutory services; the council plans to sell off their brand new headquarters to generate cash, auditors warn the council’s budget may not be lawful, the council passes a revised budget

March 2018 – Inspector Max Caller publishes report recommending the county is split into two unitariescouncil accepts the report’s findings; leader Heather Smith steps down, Javid announces that the council will continue to make majority of decisions despite government commissioners’ involvement

April 2018 – Matthew Golby appointed new council leader, leaseback agreement of headquarters is agreed

May 2018 – Council announces plans to set up improvement board, council balances its books with the use of reserves, commissioners are announced by new secretary of state James Brokenshire, auditor’s interim report reveals potential figure of PHE grant repayment

June 2018 – Final sum of misspent PHE grant is settled

July 2018 – CEO and CFO step down, new CEO appointed, second Section 114 order is issued

August 2018 – Council produces spending ‘action plan’ in response to Section 114, 'core spending' plan approved by full council, council’s plan to close 21 libraries found to be unlawful and proposals for two unitaries are outlined.

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