Plans to replace eight Northamptonshire councils with two unitary authorities should be delayed beyond an “arbitrary timescale”, according to the leader of the only district in the county opposed to the proposal.
Corby BC leader Tom Beattie (Lab) said the authority continues to oppose the creation of unitary authorities and called for the proposed transition date of 1 April 2020 to be put back.
“We have always been clear that we do not support the unitary proposals, we believe that there are benefits from current and future joint working arrangements that can be achieved without unitarisation,” he said.
‘That being said, if this is what is decided by the secretary of state we will of course continue to work with the other Northamptonshire local authorities to ensure that our residents get the best possible outcome and services that they deserve.
“We do believe, however, that in order to achieve a successful reorganisation of this scale that the proposed vesting day of 1 April 2020 is extended.”
Corby was the only Northamptonshire council to oppose plans for the creation of two unitary authorities at a vote in August 2018, on the grounds that they would “erode local democracy and local accountability”.
Councillors last night were set to approve a response to a central government consultation on the unitary proposals in which it says its “continued preference is for local decision making to be retained locally” and warns that the new authorities would not be financially viable.
“However if the unitary proposal is to be progressed then this should be undertaken in a manner which maximises the potential for it to achieve its objectives for the benefit of customers and partners and not subject to an arbitrary timescale imposed by government,” it added.
If the unitary proposals are approved, Corby has proposed an alternative ‘evolutionary model’ which would see a transition take place over four years, with a view to a ‘North Northamptonshire’ unitary authority taking responsibility for local services from April 2023.
Plans for reorganisation in Northamptonshire were proposed after the government appointed Max Caller to lead an investigation into mismanagement at the county council.