Northants unitary plans can now be submitted to government

29 Aug 18

Two Northamptonshire councils have voted to accept unitary reorganisation, which means the decision can now be sent to secretary of state James Brokenshire.

Northamptonshire and Wellingborough councillors yesterday voted to accept the plans to scrap the existing two-tier structure in the county.

There are eight councils in the county but legally only two need to approve the plans for them to be submitted to the secretary of state.

The remaining district and borough councils are expected to cast their votes on the proposals before tomorrow.

Matt Golby, Northamptonshire council’s leader, said: “We recognise that this is an opportunity to move forward to realise the ambitions the county has.

“A similar debate will also take place across all other districts and boroughs in Northamptonshire and we await the outcome of these debates before a final submission is made to government.”

The Northamptonshire local government reform proposal’, which was jointly drawn up by all the councils and published last week, was approved by Northamptonshire’s full council meeting on Tuesday morning.

Wellingborough Borough Council followed suit and voted the plans through at a meeting on Tuesday evening.

Martin Griffiths, leader of the Conservative Wellingborough council, told the meeting he was “slightly ashamed of what has happened to Northamptonshire, and I'm sure I'm not the only one”, according to the BBC.

He is quoted telling his fellow councillors: “The work starts Monday next week in reshaping the future and repairing the damage done.”

One of the proposals in the document was that Golby is given a maximum of £500,000 from existing budgets to begin work on the reorganisation.

Although, the document warned that reorganisation alone will not remedy the county’s financial struggles.

It said: “It has been identified that reorganisation alone will not lead to the sustainability of new unitary authorities.

“If the secretary of state decides to accept a proposal, after his modification or not, there is considerable work and resource required to prepare for transition to new unitary authorities.”

Shadow secretary of state for local government Andrew Gwynne called the reorganisation proposals “a sticking plaster”.

He added: “Changing lines on a map will not resolve the deep-seated problems facing local government across the country.”

The plan for reorganisation comes in response to a government inspector’s report, which suggested that the county be split into two unitary authorities.

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

Northamptonshire has this month started advertising for a financial director who is ready to “roll their sleeves up” and make “hard decisions”.

Image credit: Hazel Nicholson, Flickr Images


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.

August 2018 –  Councils approve plans to scrap two-tier structure.

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