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Two unitary model not only way forward in Northants: boroughs and districts

The district and borough councils in Northamptonshire have said they do not believe the unitary model put forward by the Government-appointed inspector at Northamptonshire County Council last week is the only way forward.

The Leaders at the councils have also requested a meeting with the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid, “at the earliest possible opportunity to discuss the situation and explore whatever potential solutions may exist in the best interests of residents”.

In a report last week into the cash-strapped county council last week Max Caller, the inspector, said the Northamptonshire had failed to comply with its duty under the Local Government Act 1999 (as amended) to provide best value in the delivery of its services.

He proposed two new unitary councils – one covering the area of Daventry, Northampton and South Northamptonshire and the other encompassing Corby, East Northamptonshire, Kettering and Wellingborough.

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Caller said these new authorities should be established following elections to be held in May 2020 and be in operation commencing at their first annual meeting. He said that in the meantime the Secretary of State should give serious consideration to whether commissioners should take over the running of all services at Northamptonshire save planning.

In a joint response to the Caller review, the Leaders of the districts and borough councils across Northamptonshire said they acknowledged the enormity of the situation in Northamptonshire, "both historic and ongoing", and recognised the national challenges posed by the delivery of services such as children’s and adult social care.

The unitary model suggested in the report was not the only way forward, they argued however. Residents needed to be at the heart of any solutions to the challenges posed and any proposals considered in response to the county council’s issues “must be sustainable, long-term, and in the best interests of residents”.

They added that based on their current understanding of the issues, they believed they had suggestions that could contribute towards a solution that works for residents.

Cllr Jonathan Nunn, leader of Northampton Borough Council, said: “It will be no surprise to anyone that we have already given a potential switch to unitary very careful consideration.

“We need to know that any proposal will definitely solve the problems which exist, and big questions remain over how delivery of things like children’s services and adult social care can be achieved without impacting on the provision of the other services which residents tell us are of great importance to them.”

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