Northampton borough chief: ‘We still want to talk about unitary authorities’

Northampton Borough Council leader Mary Markham says she does not agree with the county council's plans to delay setting up unitary authorities.
Northampton Borough Council leader Mary Markham says she does not agree with the county council's plans to delay setting up unitary authorities.
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The leader of Northampton Borough Council is holding meetings with other authority heads about moving towards unitary status - even though the county’s new leader wants to hold off.

Back in March all seven Northamptonshire MPs sent a letter to the leaders of the county’s eight councils urging them to consider scrapping the current two-tier system.

Although the councils in Northampotnshire are for unitary authorities, it is not known how a new structure would look.

Although the councils in Northampotnshire are for unitary authorities, it is not known how a new structure would look.

Heads of all the authorities immediately engaged in a series of crunch meetings to decide their future.

Rough estimates suggest a move to scrap the districts and boroughs could save around £50 million a year, with supporters saying it would strip away unnecessary layers of bureaucracy.

But last month the county’s new leader, Councillor Heather Smith (Con, Oundle) poured cold water on the plans.

She said she wanted at least two years to focus on a seperate plan to move all the county council’s services over to four mutual companies, called the “Next Generation” model.

However it has emerged her district and borough counterparts do not agree.

On Monday night leader of Northampton Borough council, Councillor Mary Markham (Con, Park) said: “The leaders of the districts and boroughs don’t agree with this.

“We continue to meet on a regular basis and we continue with out plans to look at unitary authorities.”

Councillor Markham said all the councils in the area needed to seize the “opportunity” to become unitaries now as there was a “short window of opportunity.”

However she also revealed that Guildhall based council would be looking to head in an opposite direction to its County Hall counterparts and bring a number of its contracted out services back in-house.

The company LGSS currently carries out back-office functions for the borough, but it now looks like it will be dropped in 2018.

Councillor Markham said in a statement yesterday: “We need to negotiate a new waste services contract by 2018; local government is being reorganised; we face financial constraints and we need to be more entrepreneurial in the way we work and in growing the town.

“These are all areas where we need the best possible professional advice and support so I believe that bringing our Legal and HR teams back in house is right for our current situation.”