Budget cuts: Create a single council, says Kettering councillor

Cllr Brown feels a radical shake-up of the local government system is needed
Cllr Brown feels a radical shake-up of the local government system is needed

A Kettering councillor says “a radical solution” is needed after Northamptonshire County Council announced plans to cut £77m from next year’s budget.

Yesterday the Conservative-led authority announced a string of proposals to cut funding to children’s centres, bus subsidies, emergency planning and the fire and rescue service and announced plans to raise council tax by nearly four per cent in 2016/17.

But Cllr Michael Brown believes money would be saved and cohesion would be improved if borough and district councils and the county council merged as one.

He said: “In response to the cuts councils are facing in the future, I would like to propose a radical solution to the problems that we face as a county.

“At the moment in Northamptonshire, we have up to four tiers of local government in some places.

“The time has come for real reform and leadership on the issue if the public are to get the services they truly deserve.

“The days of various councils trying to protect their own interests and sitting in their bunkers, pointing fingers at the other one, have to come to an end if the public are not to suffer more.

“By merging the district and borough councils with the county council you could strip away many roles such as chief executives – some on six-figure salaries.

“You can also pool expertise, minimise job duplication, increase purchasing power, reduce confusion among citizens as to which council provides which services, and improve the cohesion between councils.”

He added: “A prime example of the current system failing is the county council having to make cuts to services, while some districts have run underspends in recent years.

“Another example could be drawn from the dispute between Northamptonshire County Council and Kettering Council over residents parking zones.

“In the latter, hours of expensive senior officer time was taken up lobbying government for a solution and negotiating with the county council.

“We could also save money as we would not only need fewer managers, but fewer councillors too.

“We need to work smarter to ensure we have the very best services and less waste.”

Leader of Corby Council Tom Beattie says no decisions will be made regarding working more closely with other authorities until they know what is best for the borough of Corby.

He said: “With continued funding cuts from central government these remain financially challenging times for local authorities.

“At the moment these are nothing more than proposals from the county council.

“There have been no decisions made regarding combined authorities and no decisions will be made until we have explored all of our options as a borough council and know what is best for Corby.”

East Northamptonshire Council leader Cllr Steven North says they already harbour successful partnerships with other authorities.

He said: “East Northamptonshire Council currently shares eight different services with local authorities inside and outside of Northamptonshire.

“These include a shared ICT service with Wellingborough Council, finance and payroll service with Corby Council, the Joint Planning Unit with Kettering Borough Council, Corby Council and Wellingborough Council, a licensing unit with four neighbouring councils in the county, plus the Welland Procurement Unit with several councils, five of which are outside the county.

“These successful partnerships have helped save money whilst strengthening and maintaining quality services that our residents and business have come to expect.”