Northamptonshire's multi-million pound unitary costs to be examined

East Northamptonshire council (pictured) will be one of the councils to be scrapped if a unitary reoragnisation goes ahead.
East Northamptonshire council (pictured) will be one of the councils to be scrapped if a unitary reoragnisation goes ahead.

The multi-million-pound cost of scrapping Northamptonshire’s eight councils and replacing them with two large unitaries will be put under the microscope.

The county council’s scrutiny committee has put the transition to unitary on its list of issues to have a look at, after concerns about the cost of the reorganisation.

The Government has still to make a decision about the fate of local government in Northamptonshire, after seven of Northamptonshire’s councils – all apart from Corby – put in a joint bid to the secretary of state in August to end the current two-tier system and replace it with a unitary in the west and another in the north.

Preparation work has been going on for many months between senior officers from the eight authorities and their leaders but few of the finer details have been made public.

Costings from a leaked report into the price of the transition have suggested the amount could rise to £44m from the original anticipated cost of £30m.

Leader of the Liberal Democrats at the county council Cllr Chris Stanbra said: “It is appalling that county councillors are being kept completely in the dark about the unitary transition.

“The cost has not been accounted for by the county council either in this financial year. A large chunk of the cost will fall to the county council but there are no details on how much we have to pay or where it will come from.”

The scrutiny committee has the power to call forward councillors and officers to ask questions about. Issues the committee, which is chaired by Cllr Mick Scrimshaw, has put under the microscope so far include payment problems to early years providers and the social worker recruitment issue in children’s services. No date has yet been set for the meeting to look at unitary costs.

The county authority, whose failings led central government to suggest the unitary transition, ditched the cabinet role for local government reform last month after leader Matt Golby stood down Cllr Andy Mercer.

A working group will meet for the first time this Friday (May 3) to discuss the unitary plans.

A joint committee has been set up for the west of the county and met in public last month (March) but the north unitary joint committee will only meet once the secretary of state has made his decision.