New leader of shadow council on the ‘huge amount of work’ needed to set up unitary

Councillor Ian McCord has been named the leader of the new shadow unitary council by the GovernmentCouncillor Ian McCord has been named the leader of the new shadow unitary council by the Government
Councillor Ian McCord has been named the leader of the new shadow unitary council by the Government | jpimedia
The new leader of the precursor unitary council has said there is a ‘huge amount of work to do’ but that he is looking forward to helping shape ‘a new chapter’ in Northamptonshire.

Councillor Ian McCord was yesterday appointed by the Government to become the leader of the new shadow unitary council, which will operate behind the scenes for one year before officially launching in April 2021 as West Northamptonshire Council.

Local councillors of opposition parties have criticised the Government for being ‘undemocratic’ after taking the decision to appoint a leader out of elected members’ hands.

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The decision was taken by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to appoint Councillor McCord, with Northampton Borough Council leader Jonathan Nunn acting as his deputy.

Councillor McCord will take on the role in addition to continuing to serve as the leader of South Northamptonshire Council, which will be one of the four councils that will be replaced by the new unitary authority.

He said: “I’m ready to knuckle down and begin this new chapter as we prepare for the new West Northamptonshire Council commencing next year, working in a true and genuine partnership of equals with my fellow leaders Jonathan Nunn from Northampton, Richard Auger from Daventry, and Matt Golby from Northamptonshire on the new Shadow Executive.

“There’s a huge amount of work to do, especially in the current circumstances, in setting up the new authority so vital public services are not interrupted.”

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The new unitary council will effectively merge the services provided by the three district councils and the county council under one roof. The decision to form the unitary was made after a Government inspection into the financial collapse of the county council.

Elections had been due to take place in May, but were cancelled for a second year in a row due to the coronavirus outbreak. It would have elected new councillors to the shadow council, but instead existing district and county councillors will take up the mantle.

Councillor McCord said: “The coronavirus situation has underlined how important it is to have effective council services delivered in the face of any challenge that arises.

“Whether it is our statutory role in leading public health crises, quickly processing new benefit claims, supporting businesses with rate relief and grants, or our routine business carrying on providing social care and emptying the bins, councils matter.

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“Much of the full integration between the four authorities coming together will happen from 2021 onwards, under the leadership of whoever the public votes in in May 2021, but we do have not just an opportunity but a duty to make sure that the new council sets off on the right foot, not least on a sound and sustainable financial footing.”

The new shadow council will comprise of 154 seats, but in reality only 134 councillors will take part as 20 are dual hatters – which means they sit on both a district council as well as the county council. They will only get one vote.

It will feature 36 Daventry District councillors, 45 Northampton Borough councillors and 42 South Northamptonshire councillors. There are 31 from Northamptonshire County Council, including the 20 dual hatters.