Single unitary authority for county “not in our residents’ interests” says leader of Daventry District Council

Cllr Chris Millar
Cllr Chris Millar

Proposals for a single combined council covering the whole of Northamptonshire have been knocked back by the leader of Daventry District Council.

Northamptonshire County Council says switching to a single county-wide unitary authority could save millions.

NCC announced it will start looking at plans for a county-wide authority next year after a report from Ernst and Young indicated such a model could save a county like Northamptonshire up to £29 million a year.

Unitary authorities replace county and district councils with a single new council.

Cllr Heather Smith, county council leader, said: “We believe it is essential that under the current budgetary pressures that local public services are under we need to do all we can to safeguard local services and deliver value for money to our residents. Currently there is clear duplication of activity across the eight councils in the county.

“However this is not simply about how local councils are set up in isolation of all the other changes which are taking place. Rather the issue is about the complete transformation of public services.

“Based on examples from other areas of the country and recent studies, we believe the move to a single unitary authority provides the most financial benefits to the tax payers of Northamptonshire and will next year be conducting a full appraisal of the options.”

NCC made the announcement as it set out its proposed budget for next year containing £66.9 million of cuts and more than 100 redundancies.

The county council has struggled for many years to cope with cuts being made by central government to its funding, coupled with rising demand for its services like adult social care.

Daventry District Council is currently in a better position financially.

But Cllr Chris Millar, leader of Daventry District Council, said a county-wide model may not be in the interests of Daventry district residents. He said: “We don’t have any problem with the idea of unitary authorities, and we are happy to be involved in any discussions. But we do not think that a county-wide authority would be in the best interests of our district.

“I think we do very well as a council in terms of our budget and I believe Daventry District Council offers good value for money. We only take nine per cent of the council tax bill. We want to maintain a low precept when compared to other authorities in future as well, and we want to continue to offer good services too.

“We feel that a smaller unitary authority may be able to deliver on that, but we fear that a larger authority will lead to us losing that ability.

“We are happy to be part of any discussions around the future models for councils locally, but our position is we don’t think a county-wide model is in the best interests of our district or our residents.”

County councils currently deal with areas like highways, adult social care, children’s services, libraries and education. District councils are responsible for planning, collecting household waste, collecting council tax and business rates on behalf of others, and dealing with housing benefit, social housing waiting lists, and council tax reductions.