'No support' for two unitaries in Northamptonshire, writes MP hopeful in scathing letter

A last-ditch bid to see Northampton governed by its own unitary authority has been launched by a town parliamentary candidate in the form of a scathing letter to the secretary of state.

Wednesday, 9th January 2019, 2:14 pm
Updated Thursday, 10th January 2019, 3:01 pm
MP candidate Gareth Eales has urged the Government to consider allowing Northampton to have its own unitary authority.

Gareth Eales, who is bidding to become the Labour MP for Northampton South, has penned a detailed letter to communities secretary James Brokenshire savaging the current proposals for local government reorganisation in the county.

The current plans on the table will see Northamptonshire's eight councils disbanded by 2020 and replaced by just two unitary authorities.

Northampton, Daventry and South Northamptonshire will effectively join together to form a huge council covering all areas of local public service from street sweeping to adult social care.

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But Mr Eales - a current county and borough councillor - has urged the Government to look at the results of a consultation into the unitary proposals in a last-ditch attempt to see Northampton run by its own 'super council'.

In the letter to James Brokenshire MP he writes: "The botched local council consultation period last summer proved only 37 per cent of people who responded are in favour of the two-unitary proposal.

"Less than one per cent of the population responded or were even asked. Such a monumental change in our local governance and representation should not take place without proper consultation and a clear majority in favour."

Seven out of the eight county authorities gave their support to the unitary plans during a series of meetings in August,.

But councillors in Northampton were reluctant to back the plans having previously pledged to fight for the town to have its own unitary.

Council leaders of all eight authorities were told by the government there would be little support for any new council with a population of less than 300,000 people, leaving them little choice but to back the plan for two councils serving a population of around 700,000.

Yet a report by Deloitte released last year contradicted this and recommended the county was split into three, rather than two, unitary authorities.

"Let me state from the outset that I am wholly opposed to the two-unitary council proposal," writes Mr Eales.

"I want Northampton to have its own unitary council and I ask you to rethink the changes you are seeking to introduce.

"The manner in which this process has been carried out has been appalling from start to finish. It has been mismanaged at every level and I believe that the proposal does not meet the needs of the people of Northampton."

Back in 2016, Northampton Borough Council agreed a cross-party motion vowing to fight for the town to have its own unitary.

But the controlling Conservative group changed its tune last May, stating a Northampton-wide unitary would need to be funded by a £750 rise on the average household council tax bill.

Labour, on the other hand, is almost certain to lose out by Northampton joining with South Northants and Daventry as both are currently Conservative strongholds.

Mr Eales adds: "The creation of the North and West Northants unitary councils would massively assist the Conservative Party electorally. I am sure you would not want to see the implementation of such an affront to genuine democracy.

"I again emphasise the need for a rethink about what is proposed and ultimately what you implement."