County's 'doomed to fail' unitary plans will hit Northampton's children the hardest, say Labour

Councillors Danielle Stone and Arthur McCutcheon have slammed the Conservative group for backing the countywide plans for two unitary authorities.
Councillors Danielle Stone and Arthur McCutcheon have slammed the Conservative group for backing the countywide plans for two unitary authorities.

The youngest in Northampton will be the ones to suffer under the county's new unitary authority plans, according to opposition members, after they were reluctantly voted through at the Guildhall.

On Wednesday night, Northampton Borough Council narrowly voted in favour of a plan to create two unitary authorities in the county by 2020 and disband the current eight-council system.

The Guildhall joined the county council, Wellingborough, East Northamptonshire and Kettering in backing the reorganisation, while Daventry and South Northants also voted in favour of the proposals last night.

It means that the current two-tier system of government, which has been in place since 1974, is almost certainly likely to be replaced by the one-tier unitary authorities, which would provide all services under one roof.

Northampton would be in the West Northamptonshire area alongside the Tory strongholds of Daventry and South Northamptonshire.

Even though all parties on the council backed a motion to fight for its own unitary authority under any reorganisation in 2016, earlier this year, the Conservative group reneged on the agreement and decided to support plans to join with the two neighbouring councils.

But the opposition Labour group believes the West Northamptonshire Council will be "doomed to fail".

Group leader, Councillor Danielle Stone, said: "We will have the same failed leadership from the county running the new show.

"Northampton Tories have committed the people of Northampton to around £30 million in costs to set up the new council. Where is this new money going to come from?

Councillor Arthur McCutcheon (Lab, Headlands) said the youngest in the town would be left picking up that bill in the future

He said:“It will be the children of Northampton that are going to pay for this.

"Those most vulnerable are going to be punished, again, but then that seems to be the theme at the moment.

"Our fight for the people of Northampton will not stop. Whatever form the reorganised council finally takes, we will strive for the people who have elected us.

"I just want it remembered it was the Tories, not the Labour group, that sold the people of Northampton down the river.”

The plans to merge Northampton with Daventry and South Northants will make it difficult for any Labour administration to take power in the future.

Daventry currently has 29 Conservative councillors to Labour's five.

South Northants has no Labour councillors currently and a Conservative majority of 34 members to eight.

On Wednesday night, the Conservative group at the Guildhall conversely maintained that setting up an individual unitary authority for Northampton would be too expensive - and would require a massive council tax hike to pay for it.

Conservative cabinet member for finance, Councillor Brandon Eldred, said: "There's nothing more I want than a Northampton unitary authority. But financially, we would be bankrupt in a year. It would be a massive gap of £70 million per annum, which is an extra £750 per household. That's a massive financial burden on the people of Northampton, and I'm not prepared to do that to them."