Northamptonshire County Council votes through unitary authority proposals

Northamptonshire County Council has effectively voted to end its own existence
Northamptonshire County Council has effectively voted to end its own existence

Northamptonshire County Council has voted to end its own existence today and will now likely make way for two new unitary authorities.

The majority of councillors on the crumbling authority voted to put forward a bid to secretary of state for local government James Brokenshire for two unitary authorities, one for the north and one for the west.

According to the four stage vote put forward at County Hall today (August 28), the authority now needs just one of the other seven Northamptonshire councils to join it in the bid and then the unitary ball will start rolling. It is expected the bid will be submitted to Whitehall by the end of this week.

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.

He said: "Today is an opportunity to reset. There is lots to celebrate about Northants. Our residents deserve the best we can offer. We need to instil from day one the best practice in all of our scrutiny and functions, and the need to be critical over best value."

But other councillors were not so positive, including those from his own Conservative ruling party.

Former cabinet member Councillor Bill Parker said: "What we have before us today is the Government rushing things through. The next generation model has been discredited. It is not a consultation document it is a fait accompli."

Labour councillor Mick Scrimshaw echoed his comment and said: “This is clearly a proposal put forward by Government to abolish the political embarrassment of this council."

His fellow Labour councillor John McGhee said: "At the time we will be spending millions on transformation, we will be cutting frontline services. We should not be making a decision today. We need the detail."

But Conservative councillor Alan Walker told fellow councillors during the three-hour meeting that change had to happen.

He said: "At the end of the day we have to move on and move on we should. Give this a chance. Don't be frightened. Without this we are going nowhere."

As part of the four stage recorded vote, a few councillors abstained and refused to make a decision either way.

But in the end the vast majority of councillors voted to put the unitary bid to the Government with 31 councillors voting for, 14 voting against, five abstaining and seven councillors absent.

They also voted to put £500,000 towards the next steps in the process, which will see shadow unitary councils created.

The rest of the councils will go through the same process between now and Thursday, with the Borough Council of Wellingborough voting tonight.

This is a joint story by Local Democracy Reporters Sarah Ward and James Averill