Plans moving ahead for North Northamptonshire unitary council
The complicated business of creating a new unitary council for North Northamptonshire was laid out at a meeting last night.
There was some confusion and head scratching from members of the North Northamptonshire joint committee as they tried to understand their role in the creation of the new authority.
The new unitary council will be set up in April next year with the four existing councils in the north of the county plus the county council merging together to form one super council.
At last night’s third joint committee meeting at the Corby Cube there were questions from councillors about when they would get more involved in the process, which at the moment is being led by the group of council leaders and their chief executives who meet weekly in private to thrash out the details.
A team of officers from across the councils has also been appointed to the Future Northants programme to carry out the services of splitting up the county council into two new councils – there will also be one created for the West – and merging together the services of the borough and district councils.
Cllr David Jenney and Cllr Andrew Scarborough both asked when more details of what was going on would be shared with the joint committee.
Paul Helsby said an ‘engine room’ had been set up to and Cllr Martin Griffiths said the committee would be taken on a visit to the facility soon.
However the committee will only meet in public a couple of times more before it is disbanded when the new shadow authority is created this May.
Theresa Grant, who is chief executive at Northamptonshire County Council and taking the lead on the unitary reorganisation said the role of the joint committee was not to approve anything but to make recommendations to the shadow authority. This shadow authority will then make decisions about how the services for the new unitary will be delivered.
However as Theresa Grant explained last night the existing district and borough councils will have a final say over an expenditure of the shadow council until April 2021. Each borough council is putting in £2.4m towards the transformation with the rest coming from business rates and the county council.
The total cost of creating the two new councils is £43.5m, with officers projecting the merger could create annual savings of £85m.
However at the meeting long-serving county councillors Mick Scrimshaw and Chris Stanbra, who are well versed in spotting the financial problems at Northamptonshire County Council, said the savings figures should be looked at with a note of caution.
Some details of how the shadow council will be governed were also discussed. It is suggested that full council meetings of the shadow unitary take place at 2pm and the executive committee meets at 6pm. The draft constitution will go before the next joint committee meeting on February 10.