08.01.19

Corby council calls for delay to Northamptonshire unitary plans

Corby Borough Council has asked for the proposed creation of two new unitary authorities in Northamptonshire to be delayed after the local authority pointed to time constraints, staffing pressures, and service disruption risks.

Corby was the only council to vote against the two new unitary authorities, with seven other local authorities voting in favour of the plans which sprung from the fall-out of Northamptonshire County Council’s financial crisis.

Whilst the old county council is due to be scrapped in 2020, Corby BC’s leader Tom Beattie said: “We have always been clear that we do not support the unitary proposals, we believe that there are benefits from current and future joint working arrangements that can be achieved without unitarisation.”

But he said that if the plans are approved by the secretary of state, the council will continue to work with the other Northamptonshire councils to ensure the best possible outcome for residents.

Beattie said that if the unitary proposals go ahead, his council believes that 2020 comes too early and that an extension is needed “to achieve a successful reorganisation,” adding that it should be delayed beyond an “arbitrary timescale.”

The council wants the creation of the unitary authorities to be put back until 2023, with the transition of services phased in over the four-year transition period with an “evolutionary approach.”

The main reasons it gives are time constraints on setting up the new councils, pressures on staff, and high risk of service disruptions.

The local authority also states that the possibility of a second Brexit referendum or a snap general election could divert the government’s attention away from Northamptonshire’s transition.

Corby, the only council not controlled by the Conservatives in the region, decided back in August 2018 not to sign up to the proposals submitted by the other seven councils.

Under the current government timeline, once its consultation finishes, ‘shadow authorities’ will be set up in time for May.

In November, Brokenshire announced the postponement of the borough council elections due in 2019 alongside the news that he was taking the unitary reform plans to the next stage.

Corby councillors will now meet at a Full Council meeting on 16 January to agree the borough’s response to the secretary of state’s consultation on unitary proposals for Northamptonshire.

It will also decide whether or not to set up a Corby Town Council which would hold the same powers as a parish council.

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