Northamptonshire CC and its districts are on a collision course after district leaders labelled a county unitary “the worst option” in any reorganisation.
County leader Jim Harker (Con, pictured) has accused the districts of acting from self-interest and ignoring the £80m saving he said a county unitary would bring.
South Northamptonshire Council last month said it wanted to leave the county and form a unitary with Oxfordshire’s Cherwell DC, with which it shares management and services.
That triggered a call by Northamptonshire Tory MPs for unitary reorganisation in the county, which was endorsed last Friday by the districts.
Northampton BC wants to become a unitary but the districts have not said where other boundaries could lie.
District leaders - all Tories except for Corby BC’s Tom Beattie (Lab) - said in a statement after they met on Tuesday: “One thing that is clear. Everyone - other than the county council - agrees that the worst option is a countywide unitary. It is also clear that all the MPs for the county - who are not partisan in this - concur with that sentiment.
“We will be working very closely together to develop the best possible option for local people and places.”
Cllr Harker told LGC: “Its unfortunate districts had a meeting without the county there and said they would not support a county unitary.
“I think the districts are acting from self-interest. There are eight councils in Northamptonshire and so eight leaders, chief executives, directors and so forth and they want to hang on to that as much as they can, but I think they should put all that on one side and look for something that will work over 20-30 years.
“You need the best value for money and we estimate a county unitary could save £80m. If we had that we would not be closing libraries and social care would be protected.”
Cllr Harker said the three options for reorganisation were a county unitary, a unitary for an expanded Northampton ‘doughnutted’ by another for the remainder and three or four unitaries.
“The administration’s view is that all the options should be put on the table, and we should commission work on each from experts and then put that to public debate,” Cllr Harker said.
He added that a county unitary could work without South Northamptonshire, but this would be undesirable since it is a prosperous area “and you need that to balance less prosperous ones like Corby and central Northampton”.