The first public meeting involving councillors making decisions on the local government reform in Northamptonshire will take place next week.
On Tuesday, March 26, councillors from Daventry, South Northamptonshire, Northampton Borough and the county council will convene at The Guildhall for the first joint committee of the new West Northamptonshire Council.
The new unitary authority is set to replace the district and borough councils in April 2020, and even though the process has yet to be formally approved by the government - a move expected at the end of this month - work has nevertheless been going on behind the scenes since last August, when the proposals were submitted to Westminster.
The joint committee will be made up of three councillors each from the four different authorities after an agreement was finally reached on equal representation after a row over the issue earlier this year.
The joint committee’s shelf life is expected to be brief, as it is mainly intended to carry out some brief work before a shadow executive is implemented.
But it still has some important tasks to carry out. At its first meeting next week, the committee is likely to establish three ‘task and finish’ groups.
These will work on a new constitution and code of conduct for the West Northamptonshire authority, oversee the recruitment process for the interim head of paid service, interim chief finance officer and interim monitoring officer positions, and to agree the process for an independent review of members’ allowances and the creation of an independent remuneration panel.
The committee will also hear an update on how the process of setting up the unitary councils is coming along. A government decision is currently expected before Easter recess of Parliament, expected to be late March or early April, which would then allow a Structural Change Order - the legislation required to set up the new council - to be submitted for completion by the end of June.
After this, the joint committees would be abolished to make way for the Shadow Executives, estimated to be in early July.
Meanwhile, in 2020, a budget is expected to be set for West Northamptonshire Council in February, before the new council goes live on April 1, with elections being held the next month in May.