The face of local government in Northamptonshire will change forever after the government this afternoon approved the formation of two new unitary councils.
Secretary of State James Brokenshire confirmed that the proposals to abolish Northamptonshire County Council, and the seven district and borough councils across the county, would go ahead.
In a written statement laid before Parliament this afternoon, Mr Brokenshire said: "I have concluded that the proposal meets our publicly stated criteria for local government reorganisation.
"That is if implemented I am satisfied that the proposal would improve local government and service delivery in the area, has a good deal of local support and the area of each new unitary represents a credible local geography."
It brings to an end a long period of uncertainty over whether the proposals that were submitted to Westminster last August would be implemented. Local leaders had become worried that Brexit was delaying the process.
Crucially, however, Mr Brokenshire has stipulated that a children's trust must be formed to look after child social care in the county, in order for the unitaries to go ahead.
He has also extended the initial deadline recommended by Government inspector Max Caller last year in his report into the failing county council.
The heads of the eight councils across the county will now have an extra year to disband the current system and launch the two unitaries.
Instead, in 2020, elections will be held to vote councillors onto two 'shadow authorities' - rather than the current district and borough councils.
"Those so elected would be members of the new councils when these go live in April 2021," said the secretary of state. "Elections to parish councils will proceed as scheduled in May 2020. I intend to confirm these electoral arrangements shortly after hearing any views the district and county councils may have on this."
Northampton Borough, Daventry District and South Northamptonshire will merge to become West Northamptonshire; while Kettering, Corby, Wellingborough and East Northamptonshire will join forces to become North Northamptonshire.
It means that all council services will be under one roof, whereas before the county council was in charge of services such as education, health and social care, while the borough and district councils looked after waste, recycling and planning applications.
The decision comes with Northamptonshire County Council’s cabinet due to meet at 2pm this afternoon, and with the West Northamptonshire Joint Committee - which is starting the process of setting up the new unitary authority - meeting in Daventry at 6pm this evening.