Northants county council joins forces with Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire

The leaders of Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire county councils 'Ian Hudspeth, 'Martin Tett and 'Jim Harker

The leaders of Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire county councils 'Ian Hudspeth, 'Martin Tett and 'Jim Harker

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The county council has unveiled a radical alliance with neighbouring Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire.

The counties want to press for increased local decision-making powers from Government and say having a three-county front would give the area – which has a combined population of about 1.9m – increased power and influence.

Council leader Jim Harker said the plan would help “unlock the potential of this infrastructure for the wider area”.

The new alliance wants joint new plans to be developed for transport other key infrastructure, the devolution of employment and skills funding so employers’ needs can be properly met locally and increased power over public transport between key towns and cities.

Among other items on the counties’ shopping list is the ability to ensure the economic benefits are unlocked from projects such as an East-West rail and the connectivity of technology centres like Silverstone to the national road network.

Cllr Harker said: “This unique alliance presents us with a golden opportunity to drive forward economic growth across our three counties by using our combined strengths.

“Northamptonshire stands at the crossroads of so much of the country’s infrastructure whether that’s the strategic road network, the rail network or other passenger transport links. This cross-county alliance presents a unique opportunity for us to get more decision making powers to unlock the potential of this infrastructure for the wider area and vastly improve our connectivity to the north, south and west.”

But opposition councillors have blasted the plans.

Lib Dem Cllr Brendan Glynane said the “absurd, reactive idiocy born of complete panic” was a response to Northants feeling economic pressure.

He said: “The bankruptcy of the county council is just over the hill, and the Tories can’t deny any longer that their blind, short-sighted leadership has led us to the brink of disaster.

“Now they are trying to throw out any lifeline that pops into their heads. People want fewer councils, fewer layers of bureaucracy, fewer meetings and better services.

“This keeps Harker and his counterpart cronies in charge, but offers no benefit and less power for local people.”

And Labour’s John McGhee added: “This Tory alliance with Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire seems to be more about politics than what is best for Northamptonshire. It might suit the Tories to work with their chums in Buckinghamshire, but we will take a lot of convincing that this is the best way forward to Northamptonshire’s economy and public services.”