Council leader says Daventry must comply with secretary of state's unitary guidelines ahead of public consultation

Councillors Ken Ritchie and Chris Millar both spoke on the matter at this week's full council meeting
Councillors Ken Ritchie and Chris Millar both spoke on the matter at this week's full council meeting

Daventry District Council's leader hopes to negotiate the terms of a unitary authority with Government but only after the authority has submitted a guideline-compliant bid.

The county's authorities have been given an extra four weeks to form new unitary authority proposals.

The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, James Brokenshire MP, has extended the July 27 submission deadline to the end of August.

A single proposal is expected from local authorities across the county and the extension will allow the proposal to be worked up in more detail before going out to consultation.

But before this single proposal is put together, Daventry District Council will hold its own consultation to work out what it wants out of the final decision.

As it stands, it seems inevitable that Daventry forms one of the two unitaries recommended by Government with Northampton and South Northamptonshire.

The other will take in the north of the county (Corby, Kettering, East Northamptonshire and Wellingborough).

The Government has decreed the unitaries should have a minimum population of 300,000, making it impossible for Daventry and Northampton Borough to become a single authority.

"We are likely to have imposed on us something that we don't like and I see our best defence against that is the requirement by the ex-communities minister that any proposal should command substantial support," said Councillor Ken Ritchie (Labour, Abbey North), responding to the Local Government for Daventry District report put to full council.

"If the 300,000 directs us to the two unitary model that links us to Northampton, I can't see people finding that acceptable."

The Labour councillor expressed his desire that the consultation be as wide as possible, that a leaflet with all available options be sent to all the district's residents, who should be given opportunities to be involved in the debate.

As well as residents and businesses, Councillor Ritchie argued the consultation should also involve "the town council, parish councils, community groups, residents associations, voluntary organisations and anybody else that is there" because the council should aim to have a substantial public backing to whatever proposal it submits to Government.

Chris Millar (Con, Long Buckby), Daventry District Council leader, was in agreement with Councillor Ritchie but said the west Northamptonshire unitary idea was being imposed on the council and it had to comply with the demands in the limited timescale it has been given.

"If we don't go down this route, it'll be done to us. The commissioners will tell us what to do and I think we're in a better position to be slightly in control of our destiny," said Councillor Millar.

"I'd be very concerned about the Northampton borough joining with our district and South Northamptonshire likewise, but unfortunately we tried all sorts of angles with this.

"Cherwell is one example, they do a lot of work with South Northants and they're saying 'we don't want to come to Northamptonshire we have a growth deal in Oxfordshire', so they don't want to move in with us, which we can understand.

"Aylesbury Vale were talking about coming into us but the Government won't allow that and it's county area is outside police boundaries.

"So what I'm trying to say to you is we're constrained by the rules and unless you're compliant, you're bid will be thrown out.

"So we can put in all the wishlists we want but unless we comply with the secretary of state's guidelines, the bid will go no further than arrive and be thrown in the bin.

"We have to put forward a compliant bid based on all the rules and then hopefully negotiate certain positions."