Deputy leader frustrated that Northampton's unitary plans fell on deaf ears

Deputy leader Councillor Phil Larratt.
Deputy leader Councillor Phil Larratt.

The deputy leader of Northampton Borough Council said that he feels the authority had ‘no choice’ but to accept that the town would not be able to form its own unitary authority.

Government appointed commissioners have recommended that two new unitary authorities are created in the county following financial problems with Northamptonshire County Council.

It means that Northampton Borough Council would cease to exist, and instead form part of a new West Northamptonshire unitary authority aimed to be set up by 2020.

Borough council deputy Councillor Phil Larratt has now admitted he was frustrated that plans for Northampton to form its own unitary authority had fallen on deaf ears.

Speaking at a pensioners’ forum at the Guildhall last Thursday, he said: “On four occasions this council had face to face meetings with government ministers saying that we wanted Northampton to be considered as a unitary authority on its own, and four times we were told no. The only game in town is two unitaries.

“We then have to make a judgement. Yes, we can spend taxpayers’ money on trying to instigate a unitary for Northampton. But having been knocked back four times and having inspectors and all seven of the local MPs against you, we’re not going to get anywhere.

“If the other districts didn’t support us we would have lost a whole lot of money.

“With great regret we have to realise that we are not going to get anywhere. We really had no choice but to accept that we were to be forced into a two unitary solution.”

Tonight (June 4) at a full council meeting, the authority instead is trying to set up a town council to ‘protect the town’s assets and civic traditions’. It would operate alongside the new unitary authority.

But being told that the town could not go its own way - it would have needed a population of 300,000 to even be considered - remains a source of huge frustration for Councillor Larratt.

Instead, efforts are now being focused on the potential new town council and helping to shape the new unitary authority.

He added: “Had we gone off on our own we would not be at the table with the other districts in shaping the new authority. We have got to be in there fighting for Northampton.

“We are at the stage where we are setting our red lines in the sand as to what it is we want from this new authority.”