Unitary row between Northamptonshire councils ends after agreement struck over equal representation

Northamptonshire County Council has agreed to equal representation on a joint committee that will help shape the future of the local government reorganisation - bringing to an end a row with the district and borough councils.

Tuesday, 19th February 2019, 8:28 pm
Updated Tuesday, 19th February 2019, 8:44 pm
The county council, as well as the districts and boroughs, are likely to be replaced by two new unitary authority councils

The make-up of the committee resulted in a massive disagreement between the leaders of the district and borough councils, and the leader of the county council, Councillor Matt Golby.

All parties had originally agreed at a behind-closed-doors steering group that each of the councils would have equal representation on the committees, which will help kickstart the formal process of the formation of two new unitary authorities in the west and north of the county.

But district leaders rounded on Councillor Golby after county council papers showed that the authority wanted half of all the seats.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

County council leader Matt Golby said the decision to look for more representation on the committee than previously agreed was his

Daventry leader Councillor Chris Millar said Councillor Golby had been ‘dishonourable and crass’ in breaking the agreement, while the decision also led to the resignation of Councillor Martin Griffiths as an assistant member of the county council cabinet.But it has now been confirmed that the county has rowed back on its demand for extra seats, and the committees will be equal after all.

The news was welcomed by Councillor Griffiths, who is also the leader of the Borough Council of Wellingborough.

He said: “I am glad that common sense has prevailed

“There are excellent councillors on the controlling group of the county council, including a large number who were elected in May 2017 and who in a relatively short and turbulent time have worked really hard to get the council functioning better. Their voices and those of the seven district and borough leaders have been listened to.

Borough Council of Wellingborough leader Martin Griffiths resigned as an assistant member of Matt Golby's county council cabinet

“Delivering two successful unitary councils needs unity not sovereignty and the people of Northamptonshire deserve, and should demand, that their elected councillors put residents first and foremost to achieve an orderly and smooth transition.”

Speaking this evening (February 19), Councillor Golby said his demands had changed after a meeting with his fellow Conservative county councillors earlier this week.

The recommendation for equal representation is likely to be included for approval at the authority’s next full council meeting on February 28.

Councillor Golby said: “We spoke to our group and the papers will now generally reflect those views.

Daventry leader Chris Millar said the decision to go back on the original agreement was a 'crass' one

“I said all along that it was something that we have to work through and find a resolution to, without making a big deal of it from our end.”

The joint committees, which will meet in public, will now have four councillors each from Daventry, Northampton, South Northamptonshire and the county for the west unitary, and three each from the county, Wellingborough, Kettering, Corby and East Northamptonshire for the north.

It brings to an end a turbulent few days for Councillor Golby, who has faced severe criticism from his Conservative colleagues for the reneging of the original agreement, before now deciding to abide by it.

Asked if it was himself who had made the decision, or whether the call for extra seats had been orchestrated from higher up by the chief executive or government appointed commissioners, Councillor Golby said: “It was myself that put the numbers into the paper, and it was my decision. But I wanted to get the view of our group, and we have adjusted it accordingly.”