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Northamptonshire leaders to outline plans for two unitary model

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Local leaders are set to outline plans that recommend splitting Northamptonshire into two new unitary councils based on the boundaries proposed by government-appointed inspector Max Caller, LGC understands.

The locally-developed proposals are due to be published tomorrow afternoon.

LGC understands they will mirror the idea of creating one council which will cover Corby, Kettering, and Wellingborough BCs and East Northamptonshire Council, and another council covering Daventry DC, Northampton BC, and South Northamptonshire Council. This option was first proposed by Mr Caller in March.

This is despite the fact a local consultation is understood to have shown residents, businesses, partners and stakeholders to be at odds over the idea.

The original deadline for restructuring proposals had been set by previous housing and communities secretary Sajid Javid for 27 July. However, the deadline was extended to “the end of August” by Mr Javid’s successor James Brokenshire.

The official proposal is due to be published on all of Northamptonshire’s councils’ websites from 3pm tomorrow. Each council will then meet in the week commencing 27 August to discuss and vote on the proposal. Northamptonshire CC’s councillors will meet on 28 August.

Corby’s members could be under pressure to oppose the plans after it ran its own separate consultation which showed 95% of respondents were against the introduction of a unitary council for the north of the county.

The recommendation to split Northamptonshire up in the way suggested came after the county council, in February, became the first council in almost two decades to issue a section 114 notice. Commissioners have since been sent in to oversee some of the county council’s functions.

LGC previously reported how a Deloitte report into possible unitary options, commissioned by the county’s seven districts and published in March, found the creation of three unitary authorities, including one for Northampton, to be the best outcome.

Danielle Stone, leader of the opposition Labour group on Northampton BC, said the “Conservative administrations across the county have capitulated to the demands of the government and the local MPs” and added she was “not happy” about the proposed new structures.

She said she had been part of a cross-party working group on Northampton which drew up a number of “red lines” for the new structures which included “parking the debt” and “having adequate representation” for residents: one councillor per 5,000 people. 

“I doubt they will get in the [final] proposals,” said Cllr Stone.

Notes from the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government in March showed it would only consider proposals for new councils which have “a substantial population that at a minimum is substantially in excess of 300,000”.

Northampton’s leader Jonathan Nunn (Con) told LGC in April he had abandoned a plan for a single unitary for the town, which has a population of about 225,000 people. Cllr Nunn said at the time: “We’re fearful that we won’t get any political traction if we make a submission for a Northampton town unitary alone.”

Cllr Stone said councillors were “worried about being forced down this very narrow road without any safeguarding in place”. She added she was concerned the new unitary councils could “end up in the same position as the county” council within three years.



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