Northants unitary bid to be sent to Government as second council gives backing

Wellingborough Council met at Swanspool House last night (Tuesday)
Wellingborough Council met at Swanspool House last night (Tuesday)

A unitary proposal for Northamptonshire will be submitted to the Government at the end of this week after a second council decided to back the bid last night (Tuesday).

Councillors from both the ruling Conservative group and the Labour opposition at Wellingborough Council put political differences aside and voted to join together with Northamptonshire County Council to put forward the proposal to the secretary of state for local government James Brokenshire.

The two-tier governance system that has been in place in the county since 1974 now looks almost certain to be scrapped and replaced in 2020 by a unitary system.

Central government had asked all eight of Northamptonshire’s councils to work together to put together a unitary plan after the county council’s financial difficulties came to light.

At last night’s meeting, the blame for the impending abolition of the county’s boroughs and districts was laid firmly at the door of the county council, which is now widely recognised as the worst-performing authority in the country.

Council leader Martin Griffiths, who is also a county councillor, said: “Northamptonshire is a wealth shire. We should not be in this position.

“We have got to rebuild the reputation of this county.”

The other six councils will have their say on the unitary proposals today (Wednesday) and tomorrow.

Once the proposal is submitted to central government the journey towards unitary will then begin.

Both Houses of Parliament will have to a approve a bid to suspend elections for 2019 and move them to 2020 when it is expected two unitaries would be introduced to cover Northants.

One unitary would provide services for the west and the other would provide services for the north.

The cost of the next steps is expected to cost £4m, with each council being asked to stump up £500,000 in the near future.