Council leaders meet minister deciding Northamptonshire's fate

Four of Northamptonshire's council leaders last week met the Government minister who will decide Northamptonshire's fate.

James Brokenshire - UK Parliament official portraits 2017 NNL-181005-151953005
James Brokenshire - UK Parliament official portraits 2017 NNL-181005-151953005

Leader of Northamptonshire County Council (NCC) Matt Golby, Wellingborough Council leader Martin Griffiths, leader of Northampton Borough Council Jonathan Nunn and Daventry District Council leader Chris Millar met Secretary of state for local government James Brokenshire on Thursday (Sept 20) to talk through the proposed move to scrap the county’s eight councils and replace them with two super councils.

The finances of NCC were also discussed.

There has been no public word from the minister since seven Northants councils submitted a joint bid in favour of a north unitary and a west unitary.

However, since the unitary solution was suggested by central government in the wake of NCC’s financial collapse, it is likely it will be approved.

A spokesman for the ministry for housing, communities and local government said: “The Secretary of State was pleased to meet representatives from Northamptonshire County Council to hear how they are working with the commissioners to find a sustainable way forward.

“He receives regular reports from the commissioners on progress and is also considering a proposal for the creation of two unitary councils.”

Northamptonshire County Council is currently being directed by two commissioners, Tony McArdle and Brian Roberts, who have the task of making sure the council gets its finances into order.

It has £60m to save before April with the savings plan due to be made public next month (October).

Leader of Corby Council Tom Beattie, whose Labour-controlled authority voted against the unitary bid, was not at the Westminster gathering buthe will now join the weekly unitary talks with seven other council leaders.

He said: “I wasn’t aware the meeting was taking place and I wasn’t invited to attend.

“But I look forward to getting around the table next week with the other councils to discuss ongoing arrangements.

“Given the tight timetable we can’t afford to waste any more time. Corby’s voice will be heard.”

The current timetable is for the secretary of state to make his decision before the end of the year and then two shadow unitaries to come into being in April 2019.

This would mean planned borough, town council and parish council elections would be suspended.

Elections to the two new unitaries are expected in May 2020.

Sarah Ward, Local Democracy Reporting Service