Financial focus for first 2020 joint committee meeting

Councillors tasked with progressing proposals for a new West Northamptonshire unitary authority met this week to consider the complex financial journey ahead.

At their first meeting of the new year, members of the West Northamptonshire Joint Committee endorsed a report that sets out how finances will be managed and monitored for the Future Northants unitary programme, the work to create two new unitary councils for the county by 1 April 2021.

The report, which will also be considered by the North Northamptonshire Joint Committee on 16 January, sets out the Programme’s financial baseline position – a starting point of assumed costs for creating the two new unitary authorities and potential savings that could be made.

The baseline figures estimates a required investment of £43.5m, which includes £18m of Business Rates Pilot funding, to transform and move across their services to form the two new unitary authorities, which could achieve a possible yearly budget saving of £85.9m.

At Tuesday night’s meeting in Northampton’s Guildhall (7 January), Committee Members heard that the estimated costs and savings were likely to change as the programme developed and the baseline figures were being used as a benchmark to monitor and report future financial progress.

Chairman of the West Northamptonshire Joint Committee Councillor Jonathan Nunn said: “The finance report presented to the Committee is encouraging and indicates that creating the two new unitary councils is expected to deliver significant financial benefits alongside improved, joined-up services for residents countywide.

“At this early stage of the programme, the costs and savings have to be based on assumptions and given the breadth, depth and complexity of the task facing us, these figures will certainly change. But it’s important we set out a starting point to map the major financial journey ahead of us towards the creation of the two new authorities.”

At the meeting the Committee also considered arrangements for recruiting the senior managers that will head the proposed new unitary authorities.

Members endorsed an approach and timescales for appointing statutory roles required by law to be filled when the two Shadow authorities are created in May, including a Head of Paid Service, Chief Finance (Section 151) Officer and Monitoring Officer each for North and West.
The arrangements include putting in place a series of ‘caretaker’ positions for these roles from May 2020 then appointing permanently to the posts later in the summer.

The two Shadow Authorities are scheduled to be formed in May 2020 with responsibility for delivering the new unitary councils and setting their first budgets and council tax. Until then, the joint committees continue to take responsibility for putting unitary plans in place.

Next steps for SCO

The piece of legislation (Structural Change Order) that formalises the creation of two unitary authorities in Northamptonshire was laid before the General Election was called in 2019. It was considered by the House of Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee and was noted as an ‘instrument of interest’ before purdah started. Then the SCO lay dormant whilst there was no Government in place.

Parliament returns from recess 7 January 2020 after the Christmas break and MHCLG has informed the programme of the next steps for the SCO. First, the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments needs to be formed – this is a committee of MPs and Lords and this can take a little bit of time. Once the committee is formed it will start to consider statutory instruments – the expectation is that the Northants SCO would be one of the first that they would consider, given when it was laid before Parliament.

Once the Committee has met and considered the SCO, it will publish a report and then the debates can be scheduled in the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The whole process usually takes 6-8 weeks and this webpage will be updated as the SCO continues its passage through Parliament – https://statutoryinstruments.parliament.uk/timeline/WjY9gKI6/SI-2019/

We will keep you informed of any further developments.

New year, new dates for joint committee meetings

New meeting dates have been scheduled for the two joint committees tasked with progressing proposals for Northamptonshire’s two new unitary authorities.

The North Northamptonshire and West Northamptonshire Joint Committees will resume their meetings in January to continue preparations for setting up shadow authorities for the new unitary councils ahead of their proposed creation in April 2021. Agenda items will include a programme update, finance report and report on the appointment of interim and permanent statutory officers.

The proposed new unitary council for North Northamptonshire will cover the areas of Corby Borough Council, East Northamptonshire Council, Kettering Borough Council and Borough of Wellingborough Council and a West Northamptonshire unitary will cover the areas of Daventry District Council, Northampton Borough Council and South Northamptonshire Council. Services currently provided by Northamptonshire County Council and the districts and boroughs would be delivered by the two new councils.

The West Northamptonshire Joint Committee – made up of 16 councillors representing Daventry District, Northampton Borough, South Northants and the County Council – will meet 7 January 2020 at Northampton Guildhall starting at 6pm and is open to the public. Agendas and papers for this meeting will be available on the West Northamptonshire Joint Committee page on 24 December 2019 at: www.northamptonboroughcouncil.com/councillors/mgCommitteeDetails.aspx?ID=886

The North Northamptonshire Joint Committee – made up of 15 councillors representing Kettering, Wellingborough, Corby and East Northants councils and the County Council – will meet 16 January 2020 at Corby Borough Council. The meeting will start at 6.30pm and is also open to the public. Agendas and papers for this meeting will be available from 8 January 2020 on the North Northamptonshire Joint Committee page at: www.kettering.gov.uk/meetings/committee/52/north_northamptonshire_joint_committee

Draft parliamentary legislation to create the two new unitary councils was recently laid but was not approved by Parliament before it dissolved for the General Election. It will now be considered by the new Government.

Work towards creating the new unitary authorities as set out in the draft legislation continues at the same pace working to the go live date of 1 April 2021.

The two temporary Shadow Authorities are scheduled to be formed in May 2020 with responsibility for delivering the new unitary councils and setting their first budgets and council tax. Until then, the joint committees continue to take responsibility for putting unitary plans in place.

Soft-market testing exercise for website/ intranet, CRM and Workforce Management System provider(s)

The eight local authorities in Northamptonshire are running a soft-market testing exercise for providers of future website/intranet, CRM and Workforce Management System solutions. This is in advance of a formal procurement process, and is in anticipation of formal go-ahead from Parliament for the creation of two new unitary councils in the county in April 2021.  If you are looking to participate in this exercise, please familiarise yourself with the latest information on the unitary process below and here https://futurenorthantsnorth.org/publications-and-background-documents/

Government invited the Northamptonshire authorities to submit a proposal to create two new unitary authorities and whilst final Parliamentary approval was interrupted by the December General Election, work continues with preparations for launching the two new councils in April 2021.

The proposed new North Northamptonshire Council will bring together into a new unitary authority, the services provided by the four district and borough councils for Corby, East Northamptonshire, Kettering and Wellingborough. The proposed new West Northamptonshire Council will bring together into a new unitary authority the services provided by the four district and borough councils for Daventry, Northampton and South Northamptonshire. Northamptonshire County Council services will be delivered by both new authorities. The new north council will serve a population of over 300,000 and the west a little over 400,000 and both proposed new authorities are likely to have thousands of members of staff. Each authority will provide the range of services covering those currently provided by the current districts and boroughs and also the current county council. Fully transactional systems are the central requirement for each authority. Accessibility is also of vital importance, as is data security.

Through soft-market testing, we are seeking to enhance our knowledge of what is on offer in the marketplace in relation to website/intranet, CRM and Workforce Management System provision. The process is in two parts – a written questionnaire, followed by an optional supplier day/s. The questionnaire is intended to help gather basic background information, and enable us to choose a range of suppliers to then take part in a supplier day/s early in 2020.

Please note:

  • participation in the soft-market testing process is not a pre-requirement for taking part in any subsequent formal procurement exercise;
  • submission of a questionnaire does not guarantee an invitation to a supplier day/s;
  • an invitation to a supplier day/s is not a pre-requirement to participate in any formal procurement process; and
  • this soft-market testing is not a part of any subsequent, formal procurement exercise

For more information, please visit https://procontract.due-north.com/Advert?advertId=d162d47b-9812-ea11-80fb-005056b64545&p=4d8cb5a5-74dc-e511-810e-000c29c9ba21 which includes contact details

Government lays unitary legislation before Parliament

Government legislation required to create two new unitary councils in Northamptonshire has been laid before Parliament.

The document, known as the Northamptonshire Structural Changes Order 2019 (SCO), sets out how the two new unitary authorities will be formed to replace the existing eight councils on 1 April 2021.

The Draft Order will now be considered and debated by both Houses of Parliament and if approved, should become legislation by the end of the year.

The Structural Changes Order confirms the following details:

  • The names of the new unitary authorities will be North Northamptonshire Council (covering Corby, East Northants, Kettering and Wellingborough) and West Northamptonshire Council (covering Northampton, Daventry District and South Northants areas)
  • The existing eight councils will be wound up and abolished on 1 April 2021 when the two new unitary councils come into effect
  • Two temporary Shadow Authorities – one each for the North and West – will be formed in May 2020 with responsibility for delivering the new unitary councils and setting their first budgets and council tax. Until then, the joint committees currently in place in the North and West will continue to take responsibility for putting unitary plans in place.
  • Elections for the unitary councils will be held in May 2020 – councillors will serve a five-year term, with their first year on the shadow authorities. There will be 78 councillors elected for the North and 93 for the West.
  • Parish council elections will go ahead in May 2020 too but the district and borough elections will not take place so current members will serve until their existing councils are abolished. 

The draft Order also makes it clear that future governance arrangements, including overview and scrutiny, will be for the new councils to decide once they go live on 1 April 2021.

To view the full Order visit
http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukdsi/2019/9780111190968/contents

Northamptonshire’s county, district and borough councils are working together with partners on a programme to ensure the two new unitary authorities are delivered on 1 April 2021 with better quality, integrated services for residents across the county.

The Future Northants programme involves councillors and staff from all eight authorities working together to prepare for the new unitary councils and ensure the transformation of public services across the county.

To find out more about and keep up-to-date on Northamptonshire’s unitary preparations, visit

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