New Year ushers in first budget for new council

With just three months until the creation of a new council, residents are being asked for their views on the first budget proposals for West Northamptonshire Council (WNC) and help shape the final recommendations for approval next month.

WNC comes into existence on 1 April this year when the eight councils which currently provide public services in Northants are brought together to make two unitary authorities, one serving the west and another serving the north.

This will mean services can work together closely to provide better outcomes for residents and businesses and in a cost-effective manner.

Cllr Rebecca Breese, Shadow Portfolio Holder for finance, human resources and corporate services said: “The consultation stage of the budget setting process is immensely important as it allows people to have their say on the proposals so that they can be further refined before final approval in February.

“I would encourage as many people as possible to take part and help shape services for our new authority which comes into being on April 1st.”

Cllr Ian McCord, Leader of the West Northamptonshire Shadow Authority, said: “With just three months left to go, we will be continuing our focus on this once-in-a-generation opportunity to build public services from the ground up and in a manner that is fit for the 21st century needs of our residents.

“It means our residents will be able to access all their service needs in one place. And with Covid and the wider economic landscape we have our jobs cut out for us.

“Instead of eight elected bodies with the associated costs running the county, we will now be amalgamated into two. 

“Instead of eight Chief Executives and boards of Directors, from 1 April there will be just two.

“And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, this transformation will go well beyond April 2021 and will see every single public service in Northamptonshire rejuvenated.

“This budget sets a solid foundation for those ambitions to be built upon.”

You can take part in the consultation in the following ways:

Budget Consultation Response

West Northamptonshire Shadow Authority

Consultation & Engagement Team

One Angel Square

4 Angel Street

Northampton

NN1 1ED

The deadline for completing this questionnaire is midnight on 2 February 2021.

The proposals that have been put before the Shadow Executive showed no service reductions while taking advantage of the efficiencies of running one authority where previously there had been four councils serving the west.

The report showed the impact that the Covid-19 pandemic has had in placing higher demands on services while disrupting some planned savings this year.

Proposals also included a proposed Council Tax increase of 4.99%, comprising 1.99% core tax and a 3% adult social care precept.

For WNC this would mean an average Band D level of Council Tax of £1,566.39 from 1 April 2021, or an increase of £74.45 for the year or the equivalent of £1.43 per week.

While the consultation will allow people to give feedback on all of the budget proposals there will be specific questions about the increase in Council Tax as well as Council Tax harmonisation, the process by which the rates of Council Tax are adjusted over a suitable period to arrive at a single consistent rate across the new authority area.

There will also be dedicated questions about the new authority’s 2021/2022 Housing programme. The estimated cost of managing and operating the Council’s Housing Stock is £54.7m which is funded mainly through housing rents.

In line with current national policy the budget includes a proposal, which is subject to this consultation, for rent increases in 2021/22 of 1.5% on average for council house tenants and an increase in general service charges of 0.5%.

The council proposes to deliver up to 200 new homes at a cost of £34.1 m financed from the £59.8 million capital programme.

West Northamptonshire Council proposes a budget to deliver a bright future and ambitious plans for 2021/2022 despite challenges of COVID-19 – Council Tax set to rise by 4.99%

The first draft budget for West Northamptonshire Council has been announced providing a stable foundation on which to deliver ambitious plans for the future.

Cllr Rebecca Breese, shadow portfolio holder for finance, human resources and corporate services said: “I’m absolutely delighted to be able to present a prudent budget to the Shadow Executive that sets the path for further improvements in the years ahead – and to build 200 much-needed new homes.”  

Cllr Ian McCord, Leader of the West Northamptonshire Shadow Authority, said: “The formation of West Northamptonshire Council is a real opportunity to deliver a fresh start and a bright future with our ambitious plans.

“Uniting the local authorities in the west will bring many strengths and form a new organisation which is greater than the sum of its parts.

“While the Covid-19 pandemic has created significant challenges for us financially and operationally, an enormous amount of effort has gone into coping with this and the Covid-19 response remains our number one priority.”

The proposals to be put before the Shadow Executive for consideration will maintain services and standards. We are proposing no service reductions and will be taking full advantage of the efficiencies of running one organisation where previously there were four. 

The impact of Covid has placed higher demands on services and got in the way of some planned savings this year.  Our income has reduced and we have seen lower Council Tax and Business Rates collection.  We have factored these issues into this budget. 

Like all councils, West Northamptonshire will benefit from one off Government funding to help.  It is important in building this budget to make sure that council services are affordable and sustainable, such as by reducing the costs of our services where they could be delivered more efficiently.  This work will continue for example by reviewing contracts, income sources and assets. 

It is also proposed that Council Tax is increased by 4.99%, comprising 1.99% core tax and a 3% adult social care precept. 

For West Northamptonshire Council this would mean an average Band D level of Council Tax of £1,566.39 from 1 April 2021, or an increase of £74.45 for the year or the equivalent of £1.43 per week. 

The Shadow Executive will also consider the 2021/2022 Housing programme. 

The estimated cost of managing and operating the Council’s Housing Stock is £54.7m which is funded mainly through housing rents. 

In line with current national policy the budget includes a proposal, which is subject to consultation, for rent increases in 2021/22 of 1.5% on average for council house tenants.

The council proposes to deliver up to 200 new homes at a cost of £34.1 m financed from the £59.8 million capital programme.

West Northamptonshire Council is focussed on becoming a greener and cleaner authority, a great place in which people can live and work, and visit.

The council aims to recover and grow the economy, playing a full role as one of the largest authorities within the Oxford-Cambridge Arc, while establishing strong and safe communities with good housing. It wants residents to have the best prospects and the skills to succeed, and for children to have the best start in life.

Further integration of adult social care and health services is also key to the future, working towards a new way of delivering important services in collaboration with key partners and stakeholders. This makes sense as not only is there a financial efficiency but also it is much less complicated for people who want to access the services. 

Journey towards shaping the new highways services for Northamptonshire’s unitary councils begins with industry day

First steps in the journey towards shaping the new highways services for Northamptonshire’s two new unitary councils got under way this month at an industry day for potential future contractors.

Around 100 representatives from a wide range of highways providers attended the virtual event to find out more about the process for bidding for two new highways contracts for the North Northamptonshire and West Northamptonshire unitary councils, which will be formed in spring next year.

Highways services – which include things like maintaining local roads, repairing potholes and winter gritting – are currently provided across Northamptonshire by the County Council, which will be replaced, along with existing district and borough councils, by the two new unitary authorities on 1 April 2021.

Future plans are for the two new councils to run these services in their own areas, and to each secure a highways contractor to operate them on their behalf.

It is anticipated that the bidding process for the new contracts will start in the new year and run until November 2021, when the contracts would be awarded by the new unitary councils, before starting the following spring.

Councillor Jason Smithers, Cabinet Member for Place, Highways and the Environment at Northamptonshire County Council, which is moving the procurement process forward on behalf of the two future unitary councils, said: “The Industry Day was an opportunity to engage potential future suppliers and share the aspirations and visions that the two new councils have for the years ahead.

“We know how crucial highways and transport services are in the daily lives of everyone living and working in Northamptonshire and these new contracts will play a key role in enabling us to develop and improve these in the future. In particular, a we move forward with this work we will be asking potential bidders to bring to the table their proposals for new ways of working to innovate, improve services and offer our residents greater value for money.”

Reminder: Give your views on proposed changes to Local Council Tax Reduction Schemes in West Northamptonshire by 13 December

Views are still being sought on proposed changes to Local Council Tax Reduction Schemes (LCTRS) in Daventry, Northampton and South Northamptonshire, through a consultation questionnaire which opened on 2 November and must be completed by 13 December. 

The schemes provide a reduction for working-age people and households on low incomes, to help them pay their council tax bill.  Currently there are individual schemes in place for Northampton, Daventry and South Northamptonshire, which are administered by the councils in each area.

Each council offers a different level of support through their LCTRS scheme, but on 1 April 2021, there will be one new council for West Northamptonshire, replacing Northamptonshire County Council, Northampton Borough Council, Daventry District Council and South Northamptonshire Council.

The formation of this new unitary Council means that the three existing schemes need to be brought together into one consistent scheme effective from 1 April 2021, which offers the same level of Council Tax support, regardless of where a resident lives in the West Northamptonshire area.

Currently, the minimum council tax contribution that working age people must pay ranges from 8.5% to 31% across the three councils. One proposal to bring the schemes together is for the minimum contribution to be set at 26.5%, meaning a maximum discount of 73.5% would be offered through the new scheme.   

This proposal would see greater support given to the majority of working age claimants. A minority would receive less support than under the current schemes. 

This proposal would also make the scheme broadly cost neutral to the new authority and place no additional cost on the wider taxpayer. There are another five proposals outlined in the consultation document.

Those of pensionable age are protected by the prescribed regulations set out by central Government therefore will not be affected by the changes proposed to the LCTRS in West Northamptonshire, and will continue to receive the same level of support that they have been used to getting from their current council.

Full details about the scheme, how the proposals were developed, and the other options considered, along with the online consultation questionnaire, are available online:  

https://futurenorthants.citizenspace.com/lctrs-west/2021-22

The final scheme will be agreed by the West Northamptonshire Shadow Executive Committee on 5 January 2021. All responses are anonymous, and participants are not required to submit their name or address. 

Logo agreed for West Northamptonshire Council

The new logo for the upcoming West Northamptonshire Council has been given the go-ahead and will become the symbol of the unitary council when it comes into being on 1st April 2021.

Members of the West Northamptonshire Shadow Executive approved the logo at their meeting on 24 November, in what is a significant step forward in shaping the identity of the new council.

Cllr Jonathan Nunn, Chair of the Communications and Engagement Task and Finish Group for West Northamptonshire, said: “We’re very pleased with this logo, and feel it provides a strong and distinctive identity for West Northamptonshire, which will help people relate to their new council.

“The feedback from the survey really assisted us in shaping the logo, so I am very grateful that so many people took the time to give us their views.

“The design is a clear symbol of our councils coming together and also pays tribute to the county’s historic ‘Rose of the Shires’, making it both relevant and recognisable.”

Cllr Ian McCord, Leader of the West Northamptonshire Shadow Authority, said: “This is a logo we can be really proud of, which reflects our shared desire to work together, to create a fresh start and bright future for public services.

“As my fellow members of the Executive have also said, it displays a strong message of unity, which is important for the future of everyone in West Northamptonshire.”

The logo is formed of three interlinking rings, to represent the joining of the current council areas being incorporated into West Northamptonshire – Northampton Borough, South Northants and Daventry. The colour of each ring is the principal colour of each existing council logo.

A simplified outline of Northamptonshire’s historic ‘Rose of the Shires’ emblem surrounds the rings to represent the county’s heritage, and is a feature added in response to public feedback. 

The logo was developed by in house graphic designers, after almost 2,000 people took part in a survey to choose their favourite from three initial drafts. The most popular design was then modified following an analysis of the feedback given.

New logo signals fresh start for public services in West Northamptonshire

The proposed final logo design for the upcoming West Northamptonshire Council has been published today, Monday, 16 November. 

The final iteration of the design was created after almost 2,000 people took part in a survey on three initial drafts. 

The most popular designed was modified to take into account comments made during the survey and will be presented to the West Northants Shadow Executive on Tuesday, 24 November.

If approved, it will become the symbol of the new council and will be used on buildings and letter heads for many years to come.  

Cllr Jonathan Nunn, Chair of the West Communications and Engagement Task and Finish Group, said: “We’re really proud of this recommended design for the future West Northamptonshire Council – and I hope people throughout our communities will be too. 

“We’re very grateful for the comments that local people made, which I believe improved the final design greatly.

 “We feel it provides a strong and distinctive identity for the new West Northamptonshire Council, but with recognition of our proud tradition, and if approved, we look forward to seeing it rolled out in the New Year.”

Cllr Ian McCord, Leader of the West Northamptonshire Shadow Authority, said: “The local council shake up is a great opportunity for a fresh start and a bright future and a logo is a small but important part of creating a new council.

“This design signals a new start for public services in the area while also recognising what was good about our past – that there is a shared desire to work together to make this a good place for people to live. 

“I’m extremely pleased so many of you took the time to take part in the survey. It demonstrates that residents care about this change to a Unitary council and I don’t intend to disappoint them.”

The logo was created by talented in-house graphic designers, to avoid any further cost to the taxpayer.

Three interlinking rings represent the joining of the current council areas being incorporated into West Northamptonshire – Northampton Borough, South Northants and Daventry. The colour of each ring is the primary colour of each existing council logo. 

A simplified outline of Northamptonshire’s ‘Rose of the Shires’ emblem surrounds the rings to represent the county’s heritage, and is a feature added in response to public feedback.  

The new logo is to be used widely, conforms to accessibility standards and is designed to be visible to everyone, including people with visual impairment.

On 1 April 2021, the eight existing councils in Northamptonshire –Corby, Daventry, East Northants, Kettering, Northampton, Northamptonshire County, South Northants and Wellingborough – will be replaced with two brand new unitary councils, one covering West Northamptonshire and the other covering North Northamptonshire. 

The unitary councils will be responsible for all Local Authority services provided to residents and businesses in their areas, providing more efficient service delivery and greater opportunities to transform services and increase value for money. Many services currently delivered by the County Council will be split between the two new councils.

Give your views on proposed changes to Local Council Tax Reduction Schemes in West Northamptonshire

People in Northampton, Daventry and South Northamptonshire are being invited to have their say on proposed changes to Local Council Tax Reduction Schemes (LCTRS).

The schemes provide a reduction for working-age people and households on low incomes, to help them pay their council tax bill.  Currently there are individual schemes in place for Northampton, Daventry and South Northamptonshire, which are administered by the councils in each area.

Each council offers a different level of support through their LCTRS scheme, but on 1 April 2021, there will be one new council for West Northamptonshire, replacing Northamptonshire County Council, Northampton Borough Council, Daventry District Council and South Northamptonshire Council.

The formation of this new unitary Council means that the three existing schemes need to be brought together into one consistent scheme effective from 1 April 2021, which offers the same level of Council Tax support, regardless of where a resident lives in the West Northamptonshire area.

Currently, the minimum Council Tax contribution that working age people must pay ranges from 8.5% to 31% across the three Councils. One proposal to bring the schemes together is for the minimum contribution to be set at 26.5%, meaning a maximum discount of 73.5% would be offered through the new scheme.  

This proposal would see greater support given to the majority of working age claimants. A minority would receive less support than under the current schemes.

The proposal would also make the scheme broadly cost neutral to the new authority and place no additional cost on the wider taxpayer.

There are another five proposals outlined in the consultation document.

Views are sought on the proposed changes during a six-week consultation period, beginning on Monday, 2 November, and finishing at midnight on Sunday 13 December. 

Councillor Rebecca Breese, Portfolio Holder for Finance, Revenues and Benefits for West Northamptonshire Shadow Authority, said: “We want the new council tax reduction scheme to support as many people as possible who need help paying their council tax, but we must ensure that the scheme is affordable.

“From April 2021, the new West Northamptonshire Council must offer a fair and consistent scheme to all our residents, regardless of where they live.

“We have reviewed the three current schemes which are in place across the existing councils and have proposed a new scheme that harmonises what is already in place.

“We are keen to ensure that all council tax payers are aware of the changes being proposed and anyone who is likely to be affected by the proposed changes is encouraged to take part in this consultation. Responses will be analysed before a final scheme is presented to Shadow Executive in the New Year.”

Those of pensionable age are protected by the prescribed regulations set out by central Government therefore will not be affected by the changes proposed to the LCTRS in West Northamptonshire, and will continue to receive the same level of support that they have been used to getting from their current council.

Full details about the scheme, how the proposals were developed, and the other options considered, along with the online consultation questionnaire, are available online: 

https://futurenorthants.citizenspace.com/lctrs-west/2021-22

The consultation runs from 2 November, until 13 December 2020 and the final scheme will be agreed by the West Northants Shadow Executive Committee on 26 January 2021. All responses are anonymous, and participants are not required to submit their name or address.

Unitary’s new Chief scoops national award for social services transformation

Anna Earnshaw, the new Chief Executive of the future West Northamptonshire Council, was named as the Corporate Director of the Year during the Municipal Journal (MJ) 2020 awards this month.

Anna Earnshaw
Anna Earnshaw

The MJ is the UK’s leading weekly magazine for the public sector and related industries and organises one of the most highly respected annual awards within local government.

Winners were announced during a virtual awards ceremony on Friday, 2 October where Anna received recognition for her work at Northants County Council (NCC) as Director of Adult Social Care (ASC) and Deputy Chief Executive.

Anna started her new role as Chief Executive of the new unitary authority on Thursday, 1 October.

Cllr Ian McCord, Leader, West Northants Shadow Authority, said: “When we appointed Anna, I said she was the best of the best. It’s very pleasing to see that opinion confirmed by a panel of industry experts.

“Anna has done some amazing things at NCC. While most of the transformation work on the new council will take place after day one, her former directorate are ending a pilot stage and getting ready to launch a brand-new adult social care service this month.

“I have congratulated Anna personally, but I think the real winners here are the people of West Northants who can have confidence that the person in charge of their local services is highly capable and widely respected by her peers.”

Councillor Ian Morris, Northamptonshire County Council cabinet member for adult social care said: “This is extremely well deserved award for Anna, she has been an integral part of the county council’s journey over the past few years and has worked very hard within adult social care to improve services for the people that use them. I am pleased she will be continuing this excellent work as chief executive of the new West Northants Council.”

Anna said: “It’s a real honour to receive this award from such a respected group, and to be nominated alongside such brilliant public servants. It’s not why we sign up to the jobs we do, but I was delighted when my name was called out and the recognition it brings for us as an area and all our Council staff.

“While I have been the leader of an adults’ service doing some great work to improve resident outcomes, these successes are thanks to dedicated frontline workers and senior staff who work tirelessly to do the very best they can for people across Northamptonshire.”

On Monday, 19 October NCC will launch a new Adult Social Care services with new West and North Unitary teams working in very different ways and based in new Community Hubs spread throughout the county.

The launch comes following two successful pilots Hubs in Kingsthorpe and Corby and bring together a range of support services under one roof and embeds social work staff in their communities.

Central to the new model is the ‘Three Conversations’ approach which aims to move away from the traditional ‘assessment for services’ and hand-offs and put people at the heart of what we do, focusing on what the person can do and treating people as the experts in their own lives.

Countdown to new council continues at pace with detailed blueprint

More detail has been published today on the blueprint for
the new unitary council for West Northamptonshire.

The detailed blueprint sets out an overarching view of how the services will be delivered and fit together in the new West Northamptonshire authority, including who will deliver them and from where, a plan to transfer safely and legally for go live day on April 1st and a functional view of the future organisation. These detailed blueprints build on the high-level blueprints which were agreed at the West Northamptonshire Shadow Executive meeting in August.

The focus remains on ensuring residents continue to receive
the local services they rely on.

The blueprint also sets the direction of travel for the
authority and outlines the aspirations and significant future opportunities
that will come from bringing the existing councils together to make our
communities in Daventry, Northampton and South Northants even better places to
grow up, get on and grow old.

The detailed blueprint starts with a summary of the services from each district and borough and Northamptonshire County Council (NCC) that will make up the new Unitary Council.

For district and borough
services, it is assumed that all current functions and staff for South
Northants, Northampton Borough Council and Daventry District councils will move
to the West.

NCC services will be split across the two authorities. However,
as service continuity for residents is the priority, not all county services
will be split for practical, commercial and/or legal reasons for day one.

You can see the approach for each NCC service in the blueprints
here http://bit.ly/WestNorthantsShadowExec22Sept.

Councillor Ian McCord, Leader of West Northants Shadow
Authority, said: “The detailed blueprints are an important part of the process
to ensure we can carry on delivering valued local services up to, through and
beyond go live day on 1 April.

“Our aspirations for the west of Northamptonshire continue
to grow, and we are looking to deliver new and innovative ways to improve our
services for residents and businesses.”

The detailed blueprint will be discussed during the meeting
of the West Northants Shadow Executive Committee set to take place on Tuesday,
22 September.

To access the meeting details and for other information on
the unitary programme in the west, visit futurenorthantswest.org.

Four senior appointments for West Northamptonshire’s future unitary council

In the next exciting step for the future, the West Northamptonshire shadow authority formally approved four key appointments on Tuesday, 15th September. These are key statutory positions, which will play important roles in the success of the future West Northamptonshire Authority and builds on the appointment of Chief Executive, Anna Earnshaw, announced in August.

These were recommended by the Shadow Council’s Senior Appointments Committee, who developed an open and robust selection process with Councillors and involved valuable feedback from stakeholders across health, police, partners and the voluntary sector.

Martin Henry has been appointed to the role of Director of Finance and Statutory Section 151 Officer (Chief Finance Officer). Martin is currently the interim Section 151 Officer for West Northamptonshire Shadow Authority and also the Executive Director of Finance and Property at South Northamptonshire Council. He has worked in and with local government and the wider public sector for almost 30 years and has spent nearly 15 years of that period as a Chief Financial Officer.  Martin has extensive experience of operational financial management, as well as delivering a range of successful corporate strategies and procedures.

The committee recommended that Catherine Whitehead be appointed to the role of Director of Legal and Democratic Services and Statutory Monitoring Officer. Catherine is currently the Head of Democratic, Legal and Policy/ Monitoring Officer for Wycombe District Council. She is a highly experienced lawyer who has operated at senior board level for over 15 years. She has successfully advised and delivered on unitary transition and transformation.

Stuart Lackenby has been appointed as Director of Adult Social Service and Statutory DASS officer. Stuart is currently the Director of Adult Social Care for Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council. He is a registered social worker and has worked in Adult Social care for over 22 years, operating at a senior level for the past 5 years. He brings considerable experience of strategic leadership planning and successful implementation of change and transformation.

Cathi Hadley will take up the role of Shared Director of Children’s Services and Statutory DCS (joint with North Northamptonshire Council). Cathi is the current Director of Children’s Services for Northamptonshire County Council and has been leading the improvement agenda over the last 10 months. She brings a wide range of both social care and business skills to the role and has worked with Hampshire and Isle of Wight Councils and spent time in provision of fostering services.

Leader of the West Northants Shadow Authority, Cllr Ian McCord, said:

“We’re delighted with our chosen appointments in these vital roles for the new West Northants Council. We’re confident that we’re creating a strong senior management team to move through this exciting programme of change and transformation and create a great authority for the future.”

The recommended appointments were presented at the West Northamptonshire Shadow Authority meeting on 15th September, the papers for which can be viewed here.

West Northamptonshire Council is a new unitary council being formed as part of local government reorganisation in Northants. The eight existing councils will be disbanded and two new unitary councils will come into being from the 1st April 2021. For more information about the new West Northamptonshire Council, visit futurenorthantswest.org or follow Future Northants West on Twitter or Facebook.