The leader of Daventry District Council has criticised county council leader Matt Golby for being ‘dishonourable', accusing him of backing down on an agreement with district and borough councils in preparations for the new unitary authorities.
Relationships between the county and the seven district and borough councils appear to have hit rock bottom after county council leader Councillor Golby was accused of reneging on an agreement for equal representation of all councils on new joint committees preparing for the formation of each of the two unitaries.
District and borough councillors were left gobsmacked when papers went live for a full county council meeting on Thursday, where the authority indicated it wanted half of all the seats for its councillors on both committees.
But after what appears to have been a vociferous backlash over the proposals, the meeting - which was scheduled for Thursday afternoon at 2pm - was officially cancelled this morning (February 12).
And Daventry District Council leader Chris Millar did not hold back when asked about the issue, and said he was not consulted over the county council’s updated proposals.
He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “I heard that Matt had sent out an email. There was no discussion at all and to do it in that way was very crass and dishonourable.
“He’s gone against what we agreed and that’s not the normal way in which we’re used to working.”
The county council papers had stated that the authority wanted a joint committee for West Northants with 24 councillors, comprised of four each from Northampton Borough, Daventry District and South Northamptonshire, with 12 county councillors.
And for the North Northants committee, it was proposed there was three councillors for each of the four districts and boroughs - Corby, Kettering, Wellingborough and East Northants - and another 12 from the county.
But agenda papers for Thursday’s cancelled county council meeting state: “The leader of the council, in particular, has sought to listen and take into account the views of others. Despite best efforts, it has not been possible to secure agreement on all points.”
But this statement directly contradicts the recommendation from a West Northants steering group, which was led by all the council leaders - including Councillor Golby - where all four councils agreed on equal representation, with four councillors each for 16 members overall.
It was on that basis that South Northamptonshire Council’s cabinet voted in favour of an equal representation joint committee when it met on Monday evening (February 11).
The joint committees would act as ‘a single point of resolution’ with the authority to make decisions at public meetings, unlike the current steering groups that are held behind closed doors. Without a joint committee, decisions of political consequence would need to be presented separately to each of the individual councils.
Councillor Millar added: “I think Matt has damaged the relationship. It’s like we’re going back to the bad old ways of the county council.”
Another district councillor, who didn’t wish to be named, said: “It’s effectively the people who crashed the old car wanting the key for the new car. There’s been a huge row over this. It would have been much better if they had worked with the districts and boroughs on this, and not demand to take over.”
Councillor Golby said: “Thursday’s Full Council meeting has been postponed.
“The meeting was to discuss and decide upon the representation on the shadow arrangements required for the transition to unitary governance in the county.
“Following feedback regarding this issue, further time is now required to consider the matter. We need to make sure that we’re taking the right decisions for the residents of the county given the progress we have made in dealing with the challenges facing the County Council.
“The meeting will be rearranged and a date will be confirmed shortly.”