Chief's departure should see Northamptonshire's next generation council plans shelved, urges union

Branch chairman of Unison, Penny Smith, outside One Angel Square.
Branch chairman of Unison, Penny Smith, outside One Angel Square.

A union representing some 8,000 health workers across Northamptonshire says the departure of the county council’s chief executive is a “watershed moment” for plans to split the authority into a set of mutual trusts.

Unison now believes Dr Paul Blantern’s shock departure from his £180,000-a-year post should prompt the authority to ditch plans to become a ‘next generation council’.

Those moves, first announced in 2014, will eventually see the council’s functions transferred over to a set of four mutual trusts in order to save money.

Opponents say the move is effectively an “outsourcing” of a public body to private organisations, though County Hall officers has maintained the trusts would be fully accountable and has effectively already set up two of them, one of which, NASS is in the process of taking over the functions of the adult social care department.

In a letter penned to council leader, Councillor Heather Smith, Unison branch secretary Penny Smith, said: “The resignation [...] provides a potential watershed moment for the county council and the incoming chief executive, whoever that may be, to seriously reconsider the future operational and financial arrangements for the county council.”

Northamptonshire County Council says the letter is full of “misleading statements.”

A spokesman said: “The council has delivered a balanced budget every year despite the significant financial challenges it has faced caused by ever-declining funding from government and soaring costs of services.

“At this time we need to pull together as a county in the interests of the people we serve,” the spokesman added.