Labour motion on unitary shake-up rejected by Daventry councillors

The motion was defeated at Daventry District Council
The motion was defeated at Daventry District Council

A motion calling on Daventry District Council to demand a change in the unitary shake-up should a new government be formed has been defeated.

The Labour party submitted a motion calling on the council, should a general election be called, to make any potential new government aware of its preference for a three-unitary model instead of the two-unitary model that is currently being pursued and set for a 2021 launch.

It stated: “While accepting the case for re-organising local government in Northamptonshire into a number of unitary authorities, this council is strongly of the view that a three-unitary model (North Northamptonshire, Northampton town, and a West Northamptonshire council consisting of Daventry and South Northants districts) would be much preferable to the two-unitary structure proposed at present.”

The current proposals see Northampton Borough included within the West Northamptonshire unitary alongside Daventry and South Northamptonshire.

Speaking before the motion was defeated on Thursday (October 10), Labour councillor Ken Ritchie said: “A two unitary model is not what any of us wanted. A model that separates Northampton would be preferred.

“The Structural Change Order [the legal document forming the new councils] however has not gone through Parliament and when it does get there then there are politicians in the Commons and Lords who will want to discuss it. It will take parliamentary time and that doesn’t appear to be something available in Westminster at the moment.

“There is a possibility that the Structural Change Order is not passed through before we have a general election. We don’t know what the outcome of any election would be, but if we find ourselves in those circumstances we should be ready to make it known that our preference is a three unitary model.”

He added that a new government may not share the present government’s view that new unitary authorities should cover areas with at least 300,000 residents. It was this stipulation that effectively prevented Northampton from becoming a unitary in its own right.

But calling on his party to reject the motion, which they duly did, Conservative leader of the council Chris Millar said: “What you are saying has already been discussed before in this council chamber. We did prefer the three unitary structure but the guidelines given to us quite strongly were that we had to go along with two.

“As part of a bigger picture we agreed to go along with it and make the best of it that we can. The government are far more powerful than we as a district council are. We did make big representations on behalf of our residents and have tried to shape the new unitary going forward.

“If the opportunity comes along then this motion becomes more credible, but at the moment it has no credibility because it is just conjecture. If the opportunity arises, that’s when we can have that discussion.”

Councillor Millar and his deputy Liz Griffin are stepping down on October 31, to be replaced by Councillor Richard Auger as leader and Councillor Adam Brown as deputy. The outgoing leader added: “I’m very confident we will have two strong voices representing our district area going forward. We don’t want a division, we have to accept where we are.”