Northamptonshire residents head to London to lobby MPs ahead of unitary plans

Northamptonshire residents paid a visit to Parliament today to lobby the county's MPs ahead of unitary plans.
Northamptonshire residents paid a visit to Parliament today to lobby the county's MPs ahead of unitary plans.

A band of Northamptonshire residents are in Parliament today lobbying MPs to fight for funding in the face of plans to split the county into two unitary authorities.

They are in London asking the county's MPs to "make their voices heard".

However, only three of the county's seven MPs - Peter Bone (Wellingborough, Con), Christopher Heaton-Harris (Daventry, Con) and Philip Hollobone (Kettering, Con) - have confirmed they will attend.

A scheme to restructure Northamptonshire into two unitary authorities was voted in by six district councils and the cash-strapped county council in August.

Today (September 13), the 35 Northamptonshire residents are meeting with MPs to garner their support for five "action points", starting with trying to reverse the planned restructure or, failing that, lobbying for more funding.

Opposition parties in Northamptonshire have claimed the bill for "transforming and transitioning" the county will reach a total of £80 million.

Parliamentary candidate for Northampton North Sally Keeble (Labour), who has organised today's meeting, said: "There is no money for that.

"We want to make the case for not to go ahead with the reorganisation. If not, the Government must at least help local authorities meet those costs.

"We also want assurances for the hundreds if not thousands of local authority staff who otherwise could lose their jobs in the restructure."

The "points of action" are also calling for a referendum of local taxpayers over the restructure, raising the plans in PMQs so it can be voted on and calling for a debate on the "crisis in local government in Northamptonshire".

Mrs Keeble said: "I don't think the MPs of Northamptonshire have performed well so far. I would have thought to have seen them be very vocal in lobbying for their constituents, which I have not seen."

After the county council voted in favour of the plan - and thereby ending its own existence - only the support of one of the county's seven district councils was needed to pass the plans.

Only Corby opposed the vote, but agreed to pay contributions towards more research.

Council leader Councillor Matt Golby, who is leading a plan to cut up to £70 million in services this year so the county council can balance its books, said creating two new authorities was a chance to start afresh for the county.