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Brokenshire delays elections and opens consultation to take Northamptonshire unitary reform plans to next stage

As well as postponing local elections, James Brokenshire has announced a consultation with all Northamptonshire councils and other significant bodies on the reorganisation of local government in the region.

The communities secretary said in a written ministerial statement that the consultation will be used to decide whether or not to implement the reorganisation proposals after seven of the eight councils voted to establish two new unitary authorities in August.

This comes as Brokenshire published the first progress report from commissioners which “re-affirms the seriousness of the situation at the council” and sets out a series of measures to bring about cultural change.

Legislation requires the eight principal councils to be consulted, but also involved are Northamptonshire Police and Crime, Chamber of Commerce, South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership, local health bodies, and universities, with local residents also encouraged to give their views.

Brokenshire also announced his intentions to postpone district and parish council elections in Northamptonshire due to be held in May next year until May 2020 following a request from the eight councils.

He stated that there was a risk that if he implements the unitary proposals following the consultation, then elected councillors would serve for only one year before their council was abolished.

In postponing the local elections, Brokenshire argued that he was removing extra costs and the risk of confusing voters, upholding the “importance of local elections as the foundation of our local democracy.”

The unitary proposals were submitted after Northamptonshire County Council issued its second section 114 notice given its widely-reported deficit – although it is now slightly down from the projected figure of £70m in July, after the council issued its first section 114 notice in February.

In May, the government appointed commissioners to be sent into Northamptonshire to help balance the books, and today they published their first progress report into their bid to rebuild the council from financial ruin.

The commissioners are due to be in place until 31 March 2019 in order to monitor progress, and will continue to update the communities secretary every three months.


Image credit -  Andrew Matthews/PA Wire/PA Images


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