Councillors agree next steps towards shadow council preparations

Councillors have agreed the next steps that start putting into practice the new legislation to create a West Northamptonshire unitary authority.

At their meeting this week (Tuesday, 3 March), Members of the West Northamptonshire Joint Committee endorsed arrangements towards meeting the requirements of the Structural Changes Order (SCO) – the legislation approved by Parliament last month to create two new unitary authorities in Northamptonshire on 1 April 2021.

Councillors agreed plans to appoint an Implementation Team, which is required under the SCO to progress the unitary preparations. They also agreed to use Northampton’s County Hall as an interim venue for the first West Northants shadow authority, which must legally meet within 14 days of the unitary elections taking place on 7 May.

On Polling Day, residents in Daventry District, Northampton and South Northants will be asked to elect 93 councillors to the West Northamptonshire Council, who will initially sit on the shadow authority then automatically transfer to the unitary council when it is created in April next year.

At its first meeting, the shadow authority must appoint a Leader and an Executive Committee, which must then legally meet within 7 days of the first council meeting. The Joint Committee has approved interim plans to rotate the Executive Committee meetings between civic offices in Lodge Road Daventry, The Forum at Towcester and the Guildhall and One Angel Square in Northampton.

Other accommodation issues, including designating headquarters for the new unitary council, have not been determined.

Chairman of the West Northamptonshire Joint Committee Councillor Jonathan Nunn said: “With the new shadow authority having to hold its first meeting within two weeks of the elections, it’s important we have these arrangements in place as soon as possible so we can hit the ground running.

“We investigated a broad range of options, including venues in Daventry, Towcester and Northampton and concluded that County Hall, with a few modifications, is the best fit for these council meetings which are going to involve over 90 members. Rotating the Executive Committee around venues in Daventry, Northampton and Towcester will provide further opportunities for people to see local decision-making in action.”

To find out more about the progress towards unitary preparations in West Northamptonshire, visit futurenorthantswest.org

Councillors steering forward proposals for a West Northamptonshire unitary council will discuss the latest progress at their next meeting on 3 March

Members of the West Northamptonshire Joint Committee will meet at Northamptonshire County Council on Tuesday, 3 March from 6pm to consider the latest updates on the Future Northants programme, the work to create two new unitaries in Northamptonshire on 1 April 2021.

To view the agenda and reports visit:

http://www.northamptonboroughcouncil.com/councillors/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=886&MId=9075&Ver=4

Parliament gives go-ahead for Northamptonshire’s new unitary councils

Parliament has today passed legislation to replace Northamptonshire’s eight existing councils with two new unitary authorities on 1 April next year.

The Northamptonshire Structural Changes Order has now been approved by the House of Commons and House of Lords, enabling the creation of a new North Northamptonshire Council serving the areas of Corby, East Northants, Kettering and Wellingborough and a new West Northamptonshire Council serving Daventry District, Northampton and South Northants.

The two new unitary councils will start providing services to Northamptonshire’s residents and businesses on 1 April 2021 when the eight existing district, borough and county councils will be abolished.

Now the legislation is approved, the next stage will be to set up two new shadow councils to lead the work to create the two new unitaries. Elections will take place countywide on Thursday, 7 May where residents will be able to vote for the councillors that sit on these new North and West shadow councils.

Councillor Martin Griffiths, Chairman of the North Northamptonshire Joint Committee said: “We welcome the certainty that the approval of this legislation brings as we focus our efforts on creating two new councils to deliver more efficient and joined-up services for the people of Northamptonshire. We are working hard to create two sustainable unitary councils that, while being very different in nature, will be exemplars of how to provide excellent services for our residents.”

Councillor Jonathan Nunn, Chairman of the West Northamptonshire Joint Committee said: “Our councils have a strong track record of working together and we have already made encouraging progress towards shaping the new unitaries whilst we awaited this formal confirmation of the government’s reorganisation plans. There is still much to do between now and next April but we are confident these new unitary councils will deliver improved services that will make a positive difference to people’s lives.”

The West and North shadow councils will run alongside the county, district and boroughs until the existing councils are abolished on 1 April 2021. The new councillors to be elected by residents on 7 May – 78 in the North and 93 in the West – will initially sit on the shadow councils then automatically become elected members of the new unitary authorities from 1 April 2021.

Until the new shadow authorities are established, preparations for the new unitaries are being led by North and West joint committees.

The eight existing councils are working together to prepare for the new unitaries as part of the Future Northants programme, which is currently in the Design phase – to begin drafting how the services for the new unitary councils might be designed.

Residents can find out how preparations are progressing and keep updated on the changes ahead on the Future Northants websites:

North Northamptonshire – futurenorthantsnorth.org

West Northamptonshire – futurenorthantswest.org

Structural Change Orders have been debated by the House of Commons and the House of Lords

The Structural Change Orders have been debated by the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Both houses will now vote to approve the SCO. You can follow the latest progress using these links:

Commons
https://parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/131b25ec-0454-4a7d-a199-c5f57d6aa2ec

Lords
https://parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/1cc91354-18ec-4db7-b064-524927f39b8d

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Joint committee due to discuss design stage for unitary proposals

Councillors steering forward proposals for a West Northamptonshire unitary council will discuss arrangements for designing the authority’s new services at their next meeting early next month.

Members of the West Northamptonshire Joint Committee will meet at Daventry District Council on Monday, 3 February from 6pm to consider the latest updates on the Future Northants programme, the work to create two new unitaries in Northamptonshire on 1 April 2021.

Among the reports to the Committee is a briefing on the latest stage of the programme work – known as the Design Phase – which started this month and runs throughout the spring to begin drafting how the services for the new unitary councils might be designed.

Programme staff are working with colleagues from across the eight authorities and Leaders and Chief Executives towards creating a ‘Straw Man’ – a planning project term for an early draft design model for the new services. Once complete, this will then be refined and worked on further to create draft blueprints, which will then be ready for new shadow authorities, once set up, to consider.

At the meeting councillors will also receive a financial monitoring report charting the latest position for the projected costs and savings of the programme.

The meeting on 3 February starts at 6pm in the Council Chamber at DDC’s offices in Lodge Road, Daventry and is open to the public. Agendas and reports are available at http://www.northamptonboroughcouncil.com/councillors/ieListMeetings.aspx?CommitteeId=886

Members of the public wishing to register to speak at the meeting should contact democraticservices@northampton.gov.uk or call 01604 837722.

The West Northamptonshire Joint Committee is made up of 16 councillors representing Northampton, Daventry District, South Northamptonshire councils and the County Council.

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.