National and Devolved Politics

15.05.19

Government backs Northamptonshire unitary authorities with one-year delay

The government has formally approved the formation of two new unitary councils in Northamptonshire in 2021, a year later than first planned, also confirming the abolishment of the county council and seven district and borough councils.

Communities secretary James Brokenshire said “shadow authorities” would be set up in 2020 during a transition period, and will be fully established following local elections in May that year.

The two new unitary authorities will provide services for the north and west of the county and will be established on 1 April 2021, whilst a separate standalone trust taking over children’s services.

The unitary action followed Northamptonshire County Council’s extensive financial woes which saw it become the first council in 20 years to be issued with a section 114 spending ban and a near £70m deficit.

Government commissioners were appointed to oversee the cash-strapped council, but earlier this year their financial monitoring report showed a fairly balanced financial picture for the first time.

This was largely down to £70m in capital receipts funding being made available to the authority, with the council leader declaring “there is no longer a need for the council to live under the shadow of this failure.”

The county’s children’s services have also come under heavy criticism, with Brokenshire appointing an additional commissioner following an Ofsted report which concluded the services had “deteriorated significantly.”

It has now been agreed that the children’s services will become a standalone trust which will deliver services for both the new unitary authorities.

Following the government’s announcement, the county council’s leader Matt Golby said: “This is very welcome news for Northamptonshire and means we can now step up our work in transforming our services to make them fit for the new unitary councils.

“The introduction of these new authorities and the children's trust is a once in a generation opportunity to recast local government in Northamptonshire to offer residents and communities better, more efficient services and more transparent and accountable governance.

“I look forward to continuing our work alongside district and borough colleagues to seize this opportunity.”

Image credit - Joe Giddens PA Wire

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