Council leaders will meet this week to begin the mammoth task of mapping out the road to unitary authorities for Northamptonshire.
The gathering at Northampton’s Guildhall on Wednesday (Sept 5) will be the first meeting of the leaders after a joint proposal for two unitary councils was submitted to the Secretary of State for local government James Brokenshire on Friday (August 31).
The letter, which was signed by all Northamptonshire council leaders except Cllr Beattie from Corby, said the bid was being put forward without enthusiasm and also asked for significant levels of government support.
It said: “We are submitting this proposal with a degree of reluctance.
“It is born not from an enthusiasm for change but from a recognition that Northamptonshire County Council’s position is irrecoverable in its current form and that a fundamental change in the structure of local government is inevitable.”
Corby Council’s leader has not as yet been invited to join the meeting, however despite saying no to unitary the Corby council did join the other seven authorities in pledging £500,000 towards the transition costs and has requested a seat at the discussion table.
A spokesman for the Corby authority said: “The other councils are meeting on Wednesday to begin discussions on next steps following last weeks’ decisions.
“Corby remains ready to be part of these discussions at the earliest possible opportunity.”
Leader of Wellingborough Council Cllr Martin Griffiths said although the meetings were being held in private and between just the county’s top politicians, that regular information would be provided to the public.
He said: “When there is something to report we will be doing so and people can rest assured that there will be regular information given, as we of course realise that this is an important process.”
The secretary of state has not yet made a public statement on the bid, which central government has insisted up back in the Spring following the financial collapse of the county council.
The next step will be for the minister to say whether he is ‘minded to’ approve the bid and he will also need to have consultation with Corby Council after its decision to vote no to the unitaries.
Once this has happened the matter will need to go before both houses of parliament.
It is expected that the 2019 borough and parish elections will be cancelled and that shadow unitary authorities for the north and west of the county will be created in May 2019.
Northamptonshire residents are likely to be able to vote their representatives onto the new unitaries in May 2020.