'Disappointing' turnout of Northamptonshire councillors to unitary reorganisation 'engine room'

The unitary reorganisation 'engine room' invitation has not had councillors flocking to it.

By Sarah Ward
Friday, 21st February 2020, 5:02 pm
Updated Friday, 21st February 2020, 5:04 pm
The 'engine' room is stationed at NCC headquarters One Angel Square and reveals the work that is going on to close down eight councils and create two new ones.
The 'engine' room is stationed at NCC headquarters One Angel Square and reveals the work that is going on to close down eight councils and create two new ones.

Only nine of Northamptonshire’s 320 councillors went along to the first session to find out how the work for unitary reorganisation is coming along.

The engine room of unitary Future Northants sent out an invitation to all councillors on February 10 to find out more about the colossal effort going on to close down eight councils and merge them into two super authorities, but fewer than ten councillors attended.

Speaking at the audit committee meeting last week chief executive of Northamptonshire County Council Theresa Grant, who is charge of the unitary reorganisation, said the poor turnout to the engine room set up at Northamptonshire County Council headquarter One Angel Square was disappointing.

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More sessions are being held next week and the week after but so far only 28 councillors have signed up.

It is understood that a number of councillors have been along to the engine room when attending other events or visited outside of the official invited times.

In a statement Theresa Grant said: “Councillors are kept regularly informed on the latest progress on the programme through a range of channels including news updates and in addition to this we thought it would be useful to arrange some tours of the Engine Room, which displays the latest programme plans to give a visual representation of the journey ahead of us.

“Nine members attended the first session which coincided with very bad weather, but those who did brave the elements found it really useful and we are encouraging members to book their places for the future sessions in the coming weeks. These include a series of evening tours alongside the daytime sessions.”

Daventry District Council’s Cllr Colin Morgan has been along to the engine room at a time other than the members’ sessions when he had a meeting at One Angel Square.

He said the Government’s official sign-off of the unitary councils last week would probably lead to more interest from councillors and paid testament to the huge amount of work put in by officers and the council’s eight leaders to make the unitary preparations.

Leaders have been meeting on a weekly basis to discuss the reorganisation, although there have been concerns that the discussions have been in private. The debates within the leaders’ group spilled out into the public this week after an email by Corby leader Cllr Tom Beattie expressed his anger at hiring Kettering Conference Centre as a venue instead of adapting Corby Cube as a chamber for the new north unitary.

Currently Northamptonshire voters elect 320 councillors to represent them at local government level. Northamptonshire County Council has 57 councillors, East Northants Council 40; Corby Council 29; Kettering Council 36, Wellingborough 36; South Northants 42, Northampton Borough 45 and Daventry Council is made up of 36 councillors.

The number of councillors will reduce by just under half when the two new councils are introduced with 170 councillors elected in total. There will be 78 councillors on the North Northamptonshire Council (which merges Corby, Kettering, East Northants and Welligborough) and 92 on the West Northamptonshire Council (which merges Northampton, Daventry and South Northants).