Northamptonshire unitary preparation is being done 'at risk' says council chief executive

The county's eight council leaders (all pictured here apart from East Northants Council's Stephen North) have spent many months discussing the unitary future of Northamptonshire.
The county's eight council leaders (all pictured here apart from East Northants Council's Stephen North) have spent many months discussing the unitary future of Northamptonshire.

A council chief executive involved in plans to create two new unitary authorities in Northamptonshire says that ‘everything is being done at risk’ because as yet a final decision has not been made by the Government.

A decision by the Secretary of State James Brokenshire about whether to scrap Northamptonshire’s eight councils and replace them with two super councils was expected before the Easter break but has not happened because of the Brexit problem.

Since last summer the chief executives and political leaders of the councils have been meeting and staff have been involved in work to plan out some of the details of what the reorganisation could look like.

But speaking at yesterday’s (April 11) health and wellbeing board chief executive of Daventry District Council Ian Vincent said that as no final decision has been made all the work could have been in vain.

He said: “Everything we are doing at the moment is being done at risk. An awful lot of time and money is going into this.

“All authorities have agreed to set up a joint committee. Those are public meetings that have limited terms of reference. But it does give us an opportunity to move forward. A way of short-circuiting eight authorities making decisions on the same issues.

“Government civil servants were getting concerned that we were not making progress that others had made. We are no further behind than Dorset was at this stage. However, the real crux is getting a decision from Government to agree. What we are doing is quite useful whether we integrate or not. We all missed a trick that we could be working together.

“The latest promise is that there will be [a decision] by the end of this month but we have had those sort of promises before.”

The eight councils all committed £500,000 towards the unitary reorganisation but there are concerns the cost of the reorganisation could run above £50m altogether.

Once the Secretary of State makes a decision – which is expected to be in favour as the unitary reorganisation was the Government’s suggestion – there will need to be some legislation passed through Parliament and then two shadow authorities set up.

The original date for the new unitaries was for April next year but there are now suggestions this could be delayed to April 2021.