Councillors discuss how new-look West Northamptonshire Council would operate

The county council will merge with the district and borough councils in Northampton, Daventry and South Northamptonshire
The county council will merge with the district and borough councils in Northampton, Daventry and South Northamptonshire

Councillors met last night to debate how the new unitary council will look and function when it is finally established in April 2021.

Elected members pored over details such as the new council’s constitution, public participation at new meetings and the register of interests that councillors would have to declare.

Last night (May 14) was the second meeting of the West Northamptonshire Joint Committee, which is made up of four councillors each from Northamptonshire County Council, Daventry District Council, South Northamptonshire Council and Northampton Borough Council.

All four councils will be dissolved to make way for the new unitary West Northamptonshire Council, which will provide all services from under one roof and have 93 elected councillors.

The meeting came just hours after the proposals were finally given the go-ahead by Local Government Secretary of State James Brokenshire MP.

Councillor Peter Rawlinson had been charged with working towards setting up the constitution for the unitary body. He informed councillors that it has been based on the recent reorganisation to unitary in Dorset, and would be looked over line-by-line to ensure that it is all 'gender neutral'.

Councillor Danielle Stone raised a question about public participation at meetings, with half an hour allotted for public speakers.

She said: "I don't think 30 minutes is long enough for what would be a very big council. We have 45 at Northampton. Contributions from residents are important."

But Councillor Phil Larratt said he understood that there would also be an additional 30 minute segment for residents to submit questions to the shadow executive, and also ask a supplementary question after receiving an answer.

Councillors also debated the register of interests. The proposals suggest that any gifts or hospitality worth more than an estimated value of £10 received by virtue of office should be included.

Despite suggestions from one councillor that this figure was too low, Cllr Larratt said the number was arrived at by a vote of the members on the task and finish group.

Daventry councillor Alan Chantler informed the committee that interim officers for the shadow authority would include a chief of paid services, a chief finance officer and monitoring officer, all of which were statutory positions.

He said these would be pooled from the current incumbents of the roles, but that they would not be paid extra in the shadow authority for "what is effectively a secondment" from their current post.