Going it alone? Borough councillors to debate unitary authority for Northampton

Guildhall in Northampton
Guildhall in Northampton

Plans to create a unitary council in Northampton will be debated by borough councillors at a meeting tonight.

The borough says the proposal would “simplify local government in Northamptonshire, both to make financial savings and to provide services in a more efficient and effective way for local people”.

The debate follows a move by the county’s seven MPs last week calling for changes to the local government structure in the county to be investigated.

A spokesman for the borough council said: “If the proposal is accepted, Northampton Borough Council work with other councils in Northamptonshire to develop plans for a new, simpler model of local government, along the lines of those outlined recently by councils in Oxfordshire.

“In Oxfordshire, there are plans for eight districts and a county council to become four local unitary districts with the ability to better plan and manage housing, education and transport delivery, for example, in a more streamlined way.

“Northampton Borough Council would also work with SEMLEP on plans for the devolution of powers over strategic investment and infrastructure from Central Government,” he said.

If the council agreed the proposal tonight, the spokesman said, Northampton Borough Council would begin to work with other authorities to create more firm plans for consultation.

Councillor Mary Markham, leader of Northampton Borough Council, said: “The current structure of local government in Northamptonshire is no longer fit for purpose; it is very confusing to local people who for a long time have been asking why such a large and ambitious council as Northampton is not a unitary council.

“I’m delighted that change for local government is now on the agenda of national government. District council leaders in Northamptonshire have been working together on this for several months now. We are talking about what combined authorities could save, and what they could achieve for local people.

“I’m keen to be able to move forward quickly and develop a firm and costed plan to simplify local government that we can take out to consultation across Northamptonshire,” Councillor Markham added.