Northamptonshire councillors 'in the dark' over unitary costings want detailed breakdown of £43m costs

Councillors want to hear a detailed breakdown of how the county council is intending to spend £43million on the creation of a new unitary authority to replace it - as they feel ‘totally in the dark’ over the costings.

By James Averill
Thursday, 30th May 2019, 10:15 pm
Northamptonshire County Council will be abolished in 2021 to make way for two new unitary authorities
Northamptonshire County Council will be abolished in 2021 to make way for two new unitary authorities

Local government is set to be reorganised in Northamptonshire in 2021, when the county council and the seven district and borough councils will be abolished to make way for two new councils, one each for the west and north of the county.

Original estimates had placed the cost of such a reform at £30million, but in February the Local Democracy Reporting Service revealed that the costs had soared to £43million.That had originally been for a one-year programme ready for a 2020 start date, but the costs have remained the same - but will be spent differently - now that it has changed to a two-year programme.

But some councillors feel they aren’t being kept in the loop, and the council’s overview and scrutiny committee wants to find out how the £43million figure has been arrived at.

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Conservative councillor Malcolm Waters said: “Councillors are totally in the dark about what's going on at the moment. The way to change that is with sharing information. Without information you're dead."

On Wednesday morning (May 29) the council’s overview and scrutiny committee held a lengthy Q&A session with council leader Matt Golby and executive director Anna Earnshaw.

Mrs Earnshaw says that the original £43million budget was a program cost, and 'didn’t offer value for money' or include transformation costs, which could have seen costs potentially rise to £80m.

She says new two-year program has effectively bought those two together, so acts as a huge saving as the revised figures coincidentally came to £43million as well.

But members of the committee wanted a more detailed breakdown ahead of a June 10 briefing with all councillors.

Chairman Councillor Mick Scrimshaw said: “I’m not as comfortable with the numbers as I would like, and there are still a lot of questions that need answering.”

And former cabinet member for children’s services, Councillor Victoria Perry, added: "All members would want that information before the 10th, and it would stop a lot of repetitive questions.

"It's bonkers that we didn't have the breakdown here in the first place for this meeting. We've just spent more than an hour discussing it. There must be some papers on how they got there. We have to get a sense of urgency about this."