Wellingborough Council set to contribute to report on alternatives to unitary authority plans

Sajid Javid opens One Angel Square in Northampton in October with county council leader Heather Smith
Sajid Javid opens One Angel Square in Northampton in October with county council leader Heather Smith

Councillors will be asked to agree to contributing up to £25,000 towards a report on the alternatives to Northamptonshire becoming a unitary authority.

The possibility of restructuring local government in the county has been talked about for some time now, including being raised by Kettering MP Philip Hollobone during a debate in Parliament last month.

He asked the Secretary of State for communities and local government Sajid Javid whether consideration would be given to restructuring.

And Mr Javid replied: “My honorable friend makes a wider point, an issue about longer-term sustainability, and he will know that I’m ready to consider any proposal that comes forward for restructuring from Northamptonshire or other local councils in that area and I will take them seriously if they do come forward.”

Concerns have been raised, and a report was commissioned by six of the county’s district and borough councils in 2016 to look into alternative governance structures and proposals to counter the county council’s single unitary proposal.

As this report nears completion, Wellingborough Council is considering contributing towards it.

Documents for next week’s meeting of Wellingborough Council state: “All other district and borough councils in the county have agreed to contribute to the report and have set aside the required level of funding.

“It is now evident that the districts and borough councils need to have one voice on the unitary position for the county in relation to any proposals that may be considered by the government.

“It is therefore essential that, in the opinion of the managing director, BCW [Wellingborough Council] now joins its district and borough colleagues, and asks for members to formally make the commitment to be involved in the development of options, and to contribute towards the funding of the work.”

The section entitled risk analysis for the agenda item says: “If this council wishes to influence the countywide review and any proposals that may come from it, it is important that we have a place at the table.

“It will not be possible to influence the outcomes or comment on the draft report prior to publication if the authority has not contributed to its production.

“The alternative would be to distance this council from what the other district and borough councils in the county are doing, and potentially be embraced by a proposal that does not produce the best alternative governance model for the residents of this borough.”

Tuesday’s (January 16) meeting will see councillors asked to:

- agree that Wellingborough Council be included as a joint client of Deloittes in the production of a report on the alternative options for unitary governance in Northamptonshire, currently commissioned by the other six district and borough councils

- agree that up to £25,000 from revenue reserves be set aside to contribute towards this analysis and final report

The meeting will take place a week after it was revealed that a government inspector has been appointed to look into concerns around financial management at Northamptonshire County Council.

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