Radical proposals to replace Northamptonshire’s eight councils with three unitary authorities have been launched by the county’s Liberal Democrats.
The party wants to scrap Northamptonshire County Council and the present borough and district councils.
Instead, the Lib Dems would introduce one council covering Kettering, Corby and surrounding areas, one for Wellingborough and Daventry, and one for Northampton.
Each would have a population of about 210,000, meaning they would be large enough to be effective and efficient, but small enough to offer real power to local people and set real vision for their areas.
Being unitary authorities, they would have power in areas currently covered by both county and borough councils.
The party says it wants an in-depth independent investigation into the benefits of making the switch in a bid to save taxpayers’ money. It says £1.5m could be saved on councillors’ expenses alone each year by making the move.
Leader of the Lib Dems at the county council, Cllr Brendan Glynane, says there is the potential for “enormous savings” to be met if the current system – of one over-arching county council and seven borough and district authorities – is scrapped.
He said: “In Northamptonshire we have 323 council seats. Many of them are already doubled up – with huge numbers of county councillors also sitting on their local borough or district council.
“We currently hold elections for eight councils when we could hold three.
“We have eight chief executives, legal officers, chief financial officers each pulling down significant salaries.”
“People want low tax and decent services, and for that to happen we need sleek, efficient councils that put people in a position of genuine power over their local services.”
The most recent data suggests tax-payers spend more than £4m a year electing and supporting councillors.
The Lib Dems are proposing a new structure which would see Northampton Borough Council effectively expanded to take in a wider area and two new authorities created – Northamptonshire North and Northamptonshire South.
A spokesman for the Lib Dem group said there would need to be 45 councillors on each authority and added that the expenses system could be scrapped under a new system, as councillors would effectively live nearer to their meeting chambers.
But when quizzed about the idea of disbanding Northamptonshire County Council and switching to three unitary authorities, leader of the county council Councillor Jim Harker said the savings they would make would merely “scratch the surface” of dealing with financial pressures.
“It is a much better idea for us to improve the way we work with our partners at the borough and district councils and drive down costs that way,” he said.