Minister confirms decisions relating to Northamptonshire unitary legislation

The Minister for Local Government has written to Northamptonshire councils confirming his decisions for the legislation required for the creation of two new unitary authorities.

Known as a Structural Change Order, the legislation sets out timings of elections, duties of shadow authorities (the councils that will be in place prior to the actual North and West Northamptonshire councils) and functions of the joint committees currently in place to manage the process.

The letter confirms that, subject to Parliamentary approval, the May 2020 local elections will be to the shadow unitary authorities with 78 members in the north and 93 in the west. Parish council elections will go ahead at the same time but the district and borough elections will be postponed so current members will serve until the existing councils are abolished.

The joint committees currently in place in the north and west will continue to take responsibility for putting plans in place until the shadow authorities are established with a leader and cabinet in position. Future governance arrangements, including for overview and scrutiny, will be for the new councils to decide once they go live on 1 April 2021.

To read the full letter, please go to:

http://futurenorthantswest.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/190917-PR-SCO-letter-to-CEs-FINAL.pdf

As publicised last week, this Order is expected to go before Parliament this autumn and Northamptonshire Councils will respond to MHCLG as a group.

Minister confirms Northamptonshire unitary legislation due to be laid in the autumn

The Minister for Local Government yesterday wrote to the leaders of Northamptonshire Councils confirming that the legislation necessary to establish the two new councils would be in Parliament as soon as practicable this autumn. He also confirmed that the legislation would provide for elections to the new shadow authorities being held in May 2020.

At a meeting with leaders of Northamptonshire Councils this week, civil servants from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government explained the process for this legislation, including that they would expect such legislation to take around 8 weeks to go through the Parliamentary stages.  Northamptonshire councils remain in regular contact with MHCLG as this work progresses.

View the letter from Luke Hall MP to the leaders of Northamptonshire Councils.

New websites outline journey to unitary

Two new websites have launched offering a reliable source of information about the move toward unitary governance in Northamptonshire.

Named ‘Future Northants North’ and ‘Future Northants West’ they will carry the same core information while outlining the separate processes being followed in the north and west of the county.

View the websites at https://futurenorthantsnorth.org and https://futurenorthantswest.org.

These will be dedicated sites describing the process so far, who is involved, progress from public meetings, and news including details of the upcoming shadow authority elections.

Strategic Delivery Director, Theresa Grant, said: “This is by far and away the best means of keeping up to date with our progress.

“There is understandably a great deal of speculation about our move toward unitary governance and these two sites offer the most reliable means of ensuring you are aware of the facts and keeping up to date on progress.

“And if the sites don’t have answers to your questions, you will be able to contact us and be confident of an accurate response.”

Unitary programme re-designed to include transformation of services

The vision for the new unitaries has also been set out in a prospectus for change.

Following the announcement that two brand new unitary councils will be established in Northamptonshire on 1 April 2021, the eight councils involved have agreed a way forward to deliver a programme that will see better-quality service delivery across the county.

A transformation programme has been agreed now that Vesting Day has been set for 2021, allowing time for creating much more than just two ‘safe and legal’ authorities.

In a joint comment, the council leaders of Corby Borough Council (Tom Beattie), Daventry District Council (Chris Millar), East Northamptonshire Council (Steven North), Kettering Borough Council (Russell Roberts), Northampton Borough Council (Jonathan Nunn), Northamptonshire County Council (Matt Golby), South Northamptonshire Council (Cllr Ian McCord) and Borough Council of Wellingborough (Martin Griffiths), said:

“Now that Vesting Day is later than originally anticipated, we’ve re-visited our programme and built in transformational work that will ensure we can deliver better integrated services from day one, rather than after the creation of the new councils.

“Sustainability is key to the success of the two new unitary authorities and part of that is creating services that provide what residents need when they need it most and are flexible. We’re working with health, the voluntary sector and other key stakeholders to make it easier for residents to access the services they need and make sure the right people are working together to deliver that service.

“The programme will be delivered by a team made up of staff from all eight authorities as well as some external programme management support. A Chief Executive from each current authority will lead each of the projects that make up the programme, making it a plan that is owned and delivered by all Northamptonshire councils.”

Our vision for the new unitaries is set out in a prospectus for change, which can be found at www.kettering.gov.uk/publicservicereform

Government says yes to two unitary councils for Northamptonshire

Two brand new unitary councils will be established in Northamptonshire on 1st April 2021 (Vesting Day), the Government confirmed today.

The North Northamptonshire unitary will cover Corby, East Northants, Kettering and Wellingborough and the West Northamptonshire unitary will cover Daventry, Northampton and South Northamptonshire. The existing district and borough councils and Northamptonshire County Council will all be abolished.

The Secretary of State James Brokenshire has reviewed all the evidence and representations received, and has now decided that replacing the eight councils with two unitary authorities is in the best interests of the residents of Northamptonshire.

Parliamentary Orders will follow later this year and there will be elections to the Shadow Authorities in May 2020. Shadow Executives for the two unitaries will be selected from those elected and will determine the structure, budget and service delivery models for the new councils.

Services which complement one another but are currently divided between the district, borough and county councils, such as bin collections, waste disposal, planning and roads, will be brought together under each of the two unitary councils.

Leaders of the current authorities said that, now that a decision has been made, the preparations to build a better future for Northamptonshire’s residents and businesses, providing more responsive, innovative services, could continue with certainty.

In a joint comment, the council leaders of Corby Borough Council (Tom Beattie), Daventry District Council (Chris Millar), East Northamptonshire Council (Steven North), Kettering Borough Council (Russell Roberts), Northampton Borough Council (Jonathan Nunn), Northamptonshire County Council (Matt Golby), South Northamptonshire Council (Cllr Ian McCord) and Borough Council of Wellingborough (Martin Griffiths), said:

“We have been working hard towards an anticipated 2020 Vesting Day but that was always going to be a tight timetable to meet if we were going to transform services as well as ensuring that they were safe and legal on that date.

“We therefore welcome the announcement that Vesting Day will be 1st April 2021. That gives us more time to plan carefully and confidently for the future to ensure that we create two sustainable unitary councils that, while being very different in nature, will be exemplars of how to provide excellent services for our residents.”

There will be elections to the Shadow Authorities in May 2020, so those newly-elected councillors will be able to work with officers to design and implement the new councils for several months ahead of Vesting Day.

First West Northamptonshire Joint Committee takes place

The first meeting of the West Northamptonshire Joint Committee was held at Northampton’s Guildhall last night (Tuesday 26 March).

Its primary task in the coming months is to pave the way for a new Shadow Authority which will navigate the course toward local government reorganisation in the west of the county.

With no apologies from members, the meeting moved on to the election of a Chair and Vice Chair for the Committee.

Northampton Borough Council Leader Cllr Jonathan Nunn and Daventry District Council Leader Cllr Chris Millar were agreed for these respective posts.

Questions were then taken from members of the public, before Committee members turned their attention to the Committee’s Terms of Reference and Standing Orders.

Cllr Jonathan Nunn said: “One of our first acts as a Committee was to agree a slight change to our proposed Standing Orders in response to an earlier comment from a member of the public.

“I hope this demonstrates the spirit in which we intend to conduct these meetings, one of receptiveness and inclusion, where people can be confident that their voices are being heard.

“The Committee’s remit is very narrow and there are many matters which we will not be able to consider directly, but we welcome any comments and questions which relate to our specific work.”

The Committee was also given a brief update on progress toward local government reorganisation by Northampton Borough Council Chief Executive George Candler.

There was then a discussion about the remit and membership of three Task and Finish Groups, each of which will have a Committee member as Chair.

It was agreed that representatives on each Group should be drawn from the wider membership of the four councils on the Joint Committee, and that the Group Chair should have discretion over numbers.

Chairs of the Task and Finish Groups were agreed as follows:

  • Cllr Peter Rawlinson from South Northamptonshire Council – Governance
  • Cllr Alan Chantler from Daventry District Council – Interim Appointments
  • Cllr Suresh Patel from Northamptonshire County Council – Independent Remuneration Panel

The Committee is currently expected to hold a total of three meetings, the second of which will be on Tuesday 14 May and the third on Wednesday 5 June, both at 6pm, with venues yet to be finalised.

Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government launches consultation on unitary proposal and announces postponement of elections

Consultation by the Secretary of State (SoS) over plans to restructure local government in Northamptonshire which could include two unitary authorities has started today.

The Government consultation has launched following proposals submitted by Northamptonshire councils back in August 2018.

SoS, James Brokenshire has announced that he will consult with all principal councils in Northamptonshire, principal councils neighbouring Northamptonshire, Northamptonshire Chamber of Commerce, South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership, the Northamptonshire Police and Crime Commissioner, local health bodies, the University of Northampton, and representatives of the voluntary sector. He also welcomes views from any interested people, including local residents and organisations.

The consultation period will run for eight weeks until 25 January 2019 and is available online at https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/the-proposed-reorganisation-of-local-government-in-northamptonshire Paper copies will also be available shortly in public offices and buildings of all the Northamptonshire councils.

Mr Brokenshire has also announced today that following a request from the eight Northamptonshire councils, he will be postponing district and parish elections that were due to be held in May 2019 until May 2020. Should he decide to implement the proposal of two unitary authorities, it would have meant district and parish councillors serving only one year before unitary authority elections would be held in 2020. He explains: “Elections in such circumstances risk confusing voters and would involve significant costs that would be hard to justify…Accordingly, I have concluded that irrespective of whatever my future decision might be on the restructuring proposal, the right course is to postpone these elections.”

Leader of East Northamptonshire Council, Steven North, adds: “We’re pleased that the consultation has started and hope that all involved take the opportunity to have their say on this important proposal.

“In August 2018, East Northamptonshire Council decided to dissolve itself following the recommendations made in the Max Caller report into Northamptonshire County Council. We focussed on putting forward a proposal that is right for our residents.

“We welcome this further consultation by the SoS into the proposal we submitted and look forward to hearing the response in spring 2019.

“We also very much welcome the postponement of the elections. We agree with the Secretary of State and the lead inspector at NCC when they say that it would be wrong for councils to pick up election costs for just one year of service when it’s possible there will be unitary elections in 2020. As well as the cost saving, this also allows us more time to focus on the process of setting up a shadow authority and delivering on the proposals for Northamptonshire.”

Statement from all seven Northamptonshire district and borough councils in response to the latest announcements from NCC regarding its financial situation

“All seven district and borough councils note that NCC has met to discuss its challenging financial position and set its priorities for future service delivery.

NCC’s new leadership team has expressed a desire to work more closely with the districts and boroughs than has been the case in the past and we, as a group, are committed to working together to meet the needs of our residents; we will therefore do our best to support NCC to deliver the changes it needs to make in order to become financially sustainable.

“The Leaders and Chief Executives of all eight authorities are already working together on drafting a response to the Secretary of State’s invitation and proposal criteria for local government reform, in which the need for financial sustainability is stressed. We consider this absolutely essential if the new unitary councils that are likely to emerge from the current discussions are to be strong and successful and deliver high quality services.

Our focus always has been and will continue to be the needs of our residents, and closer working will help us all to meet those needs.”

Borough Council of Wellingborough
Corby Borough Council
Daventry District Council
East Northamptonshire Council
Kettering Borough Council
Northampton Borough Council
South Northants District Council

Thank you for taking part in the consultation on the design of future local government in Northants

Northamptonshire’s eight local authorities jointly thank all the people who have taken part in the recent consultation on local government reform in the county.

The information gathered from the questionnaires, telephone surveys and workshops held across the county is now being independently analysed ready for publication at the end of August. The results will help inform a final proposal that will be submitted to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.

The Government’s invitation to submit a proposal follows a Best Value Inspection of Northamptonshire County Council, which concluded that its financial, cultural and governance problems could not be solved in isolation and recommended that plans be developed for two unitary authorities.

The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government has asked that the eight authorities in Northamptonshire submit a proposal that meets the following criteria:

  • A single county-wide unitary is explicitly excluded as an option
  • Each new proposed authority must have a population substantially in excess of 300,000
  • The proposal must be based on existing council boundaries.

In addition to the criteria set out by the Secretary of State, Government has stated:

  • Only one proposal will be accepted, not a range of options
  • It must demonstrate clear potential for savings
  • It must command a good deal of local support
  • Due consideration should be given to recommendations in the Best Value Report
  • Any solution should prioritise the Government’s wider housing and growth agenda
  • Extensive consultation must be carried out