Kettering Council to look at new ways of delivering services

Another council in the north of the county is to look at the best way of delivering services
Another council in the north of the county is to look at the best way of delivering services
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Another council in the north of the county is to look at the best way of delivering services.

The idea of creating fewer, larger, authorities has gained traction in recent weeks, with county council leader Jim Harker suggesting a single unitary body for the whole of Northamptonshire is the way forward.

An alternative future could see the county’s district and borough councils ‘merge’ to create two or three separate authorities, including one for just the north of the county.

Following East Northants Council’s decision earlier this month to agree to look at other ways for the authority to still provide good services but with less money, a similar motion was given the seal of approval at a Kettering Council meeting last week.

The cross-party initiative was proposed by leader Cllr Russell Roberts and seconded by opposition leader Cllr Jonathan West.

Speaking at the meeting, Cllr Roberts said: “The issue of whether we should create a unitary council may come as a surprise to many people.

“There is a worry about the long-term future of the county council and there has never been a time where we have needed public services more.

“We are here to commission a study into what would work best for our people.

“I am confident that this would be done with other councils in the county and that we will do the best for our residents. Our plan, our future.”

Northamptonshire County Council has cut £224m in services since 2010 and with a further £65m of cuts planned for 2016/17, there are concerns about the impact it will have.

Cllr West said that this presented a ‘chance for change’. He said: “We all have a chance to make sure there is a change in the area.

“We could wait and see what happens but those events could come to us before we have made a decision.

“We need to work together and we need to listen to the public first.

“There are things around this county that could really do with some improvement.”

South Northamptonshire Council has already publicised its ambition to form part of a greater Oxfordshire group of unitary authorities.

The plans, backed by Prime Minister David Cameron, would see Brackley, Towcester and surrounding villages become part of a new cluster.

MP for Kettering Philip Hollobone, who is also a borough councillor, said he saw no reason why north Northamptonshire could not do the same – with Kettering General Hospital as a focal point.

He said: “This is a wonderful opportunity for this council now that we have a Government that wants to devolve local councils to make decisions in the area.

“The big problem in Northamptonshire is that the county council is about to ‘go bust’ and something is going to have to happen.

“What this is about is making sure that we provide public services as well as we can. What better way than for the north of the county to combine with Kettering General as a central point?”