North Northants unitary preparations forging ahead

Wellingborough Council has set up a sub committee to discuss the unitary plans.
Wellingborough Council has set up a sub committee to discuss the unitary plans.

A consultation by the secretary of state for local government about two new unitary authorities for Northamptonshire is expected to be announced shortly.

Since seven of the eight councils in the county submitted a joint bid to secretary of state for local government James Brokenshire in August expressing their preference for two unitary councils there has been no public word from Mr Brokenshire’s office.

But his silence is expected to be broken in the coming days with an eight week consultation forming the next step in the march towards unitary governance.

Despite no official go ahead, informal regular meetings have been taking place between the leaders of East Northants, Corby, Kettering and Wellingborough councils as there are just 18 months to go before the anticipated unitary formation date of May 2020.

A spokesman for the north Northamptonshire collective said: “The county-wide group continues to meet on a regular basis whilst north and west groups are now meeting to consider work streams that will come out of a decision by the Secretary of State to proceed with the unitary proposal. Whilst we understand that a decision has not yet been made, we have been advised to start preparations in advance of a go-ahead from the Secretary of State.”

The spokesman said the council leaders are discussing issues such as resources and potential risks that might interrupt the process such as an unscheduled general election.

Areas being looked at include finance, legal, HR, data and information governance.

Wellingborough Council has set up a local government reform sub-committee to make sure all councillors are kept in the loop.

The other unitary authority likely to be formed will be in the West of the county replacing the borough and district councils in Daventry, Northampton and South Northants.

Northamptonshire’s road towards unitary governance has been in part caused by the collapse of the county council’s finances earlier this year. A damning report commissioned by the government said the council was beyond repair and should be replaced by a unitary authority.