Police and crime commissioner against plans for two unitary councils in Northants

Stephen Mold
Stephen Mold

Northamptonshire’s police and crime commissioner has written to the secretary of state for local government to voice his objection against two unitary councils for the county.

Stephen Mold, who as PCC has responsibility for Northamptonshire Police, is in favour of one large unitary to cover the whole of the county as he fears that vulnerable people could fall down the gaps between two unitary authorities.

He is asking the minister for a chance to discuss his concerns and says in his letter that one unitary would offer the maximum economies of scale and would provide better uniformity of services.

At the end of last month seven of the eight councils in Northants put in a joint bid to Secretary of State for Local Government James Brokenshire  to replace the current two-tier system in the county with a unitary system.

This would mean a huge reshaping of local services as the two proposed new unitaries, one in the north and one in the west, would each deliver services currently provided by the county council and the borough or district councils.

There have been a number of critics of the two unitary system and now one of the county’s most important politicians has added his name to the list.

Referring to why he has written the letter Commissioner Mold said: “Local government reorganisation in Northamptonshire gives us a tremendous opportunity to take a fresh look at the way we do things and design a system that focuses on providing people with effective services in a more efficient and affordable way.

“I would have liked the consultation on reform to consider a countywide unitary option and I have asked for assurances that the needs of our countywide services are being taken into account and any risks are identified and managed during the transition period to new arrangements.

“My reasons for that are very practical: I focus on community safety and public protection so I do not want to see artificial borders, or inconsistent practices and levels of service that don’t serve people well or even put the vulnerable at risk from being caught in the gaps between different authorities.

“I would prefer us to work on a consistent way, to one set of standards and following one process right across Northamptonshire.  

“As we move to two councils, I have asked for assurances that this are taken into account.”

Since the joint submission by the councils for two unitaries there has been no public word from the secretary of state.

It is understood he will need to consult with Corby Council before he makes any decision as the borough council has refused to join the bid following consultation with local residents who were overwhelmingly against.

The current timetable being spoken of is for elections to the two unitary authorities to take place in May 2020.