Sajid Javid has said he is "ready to consider" proposals to restructure Northamptonshire's local government as a unitary authority.
Yesterday afternoon the Secretary of State for communities and local government delivered his statement on the provision of finances to local authorities from 2018 to 2019 to the House of Commons.
During the ensuing debate, Kettering MP Philip Hollobone asked Mr Javid whether consideration would be given to a restructuring of Northamptonshire’s local government.
Mr Hollobone said: “[Northamptonshire County Council] will set a legal budget for 2018-19 but it’s making it clear that it won’t be able to finance its statutory functions in 19-20 unless something changes.
“Part of the solution is obvious to many local councillors that local government needs to be restructured in the county.
“Would the Secretary of State encourage those proposals to be brought forward to him for consideration?”
In response, Mr Javid said: “My honorable friend makes a wider point, an issue about longer-term sustainability, and he will know that I’m ready to consider any proposal that comes forward for restructuring from Northamptonshire or other local councils in that area and I will take them seriously if they do come forward.”
During BBC Radio Northampton’s NCC Cuts debate which aired last night, Councillor Chris Stanbra (Lib Dem, Oakley) said a discussion on the future of local government was needed, but he was personally opposed to a unitary authority.
As alluded to by Mr Hollobone, the Government may be forced into action and force a unitary structure on the county should the council be unable to balance its books in two years’ time.
“I’m not in favour of a unitary authority,” said Cllr Stanbra
“I think we need more than one, my preference would be for three.
“A unitary authority is probably what’s going to happen if the county council can’t deliver its budget.”
Northampton Borough Council leader Jonathan Nunn has also spoken out on the possible restructuring of the county's local government when he published a statement last week ahead of a full cabinet member.
He wrote: “Whilst over the past year the possibility of Unitary Local Government in Northamptonshire has appeared at times to be unlikely, I can report that the subject now seems to be very much back on the agenda."