Northants police head calls for reassurance over council unitary plans

24 Sep 18

Northamptonshire’s police and crime commissioner has waded into the discussions over the reorganisation of local government in the county.

Stephen Mold, who is also the county’s fire commissioner, said he is concerned about how the two unitary authorities will work together.

A government-commissioned report has advised Northamptonshire is broken up and split into two unitaries, swallowing up the districts and boroughs in the county.

But Mold wrote to local government secretary James Brokenshire earlier this month - in a letter released last week - saying he is concerned vulnerable people could get “caught in the gaps between new authorities”.

He released a statement saying he did this for “very practical” reasons. “I do not want to see artificial borders, or inconsistent practices and levels of service that don’t serve people well or even put the vulnerable at risk from being caught in the gaps between different authorities”.

In the letter, seen by PF, he asks Brokenshire for assurances that public protection and community safety will continue in a consistent manner following the county's restructuring.

The commissioner wrote in the letter he thought the decision to rule out the possibility of one single unitary authority in the county was an “error”.

Mold warned the communities secretary that the reorganisation would not only affect local government but emergency services, the health service and housing providers.

Under a two unitary structure things like adult social care and children’s services will be provided by the two separate councils and Mold called on the government to make sure “no vulnerable individuals are left behind following the transition”.

Brokenshire Mold said: “I would prefer us to work in a consistent way, to one set of standards and following one process right across Northamptonshire.”

In August, all but one of the eight councils within Northamptonshire accepted proposals for reorganisation, meaning the plan was sent to the secretary of state.

In his letter to Brokenshire, Mold said: “It is clear that moving to a two unitary model will involve the wholesale redesign of public services across our county and at a time when demand is increasing.

“I would be interested to hear what assurances the government can give in relation to supporting the transition period and how risk management planning will be undertaken”.

In July, Northamptonshire County Council became the first council ever to issue a second Section 114 notice.

The Ministry of Housing, Local Government and Communities has been approached for comment. 

Image credit: Hazel Nicholson, Flickr Images

Timeline

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 appointedsecond 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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