Business voices fears over delay to new council structure

Dec 04, 2019

Peter Bone, pictured speaking at a Wellingborough Chamber of Commerce breakfast event earlier this year.

BUSINESS leaders have expressed their concerns that plans to overhaul the structure of Northamptonshire’s local authorities have been delayed due to the General Election.

Due to be established on April 1, 2021, current plans include the formation of two new unitary authorities. West Northamptonshire Unitary Authority would combine Daventry, Northampton and South Northamptonshire, while the North Northamptonshire Unitary Authority would combine Corby, East Northamptonshire, Kettering and Wellingborough. The existing district and borough councils and Northamptonshire County Council would be abolished.

At its annual general meeting last month, Wellingborough Chamber of Commerce voted to expand its membership to include East Northamptonshire. This means that businesses throughout East Northants, including Rushden, Higham Ferrers, Thrapston, Kingscliffe and Oundle, can join the newly combined Wellingborough & East Northamptonshire  Chamber of Commerce. 

The reorganisation follows the review by then Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government James Brokenshire in May, which ruled that replacing Northamptonshire’s eight councils with two unitary authorities was in the best interest of the county’s residents.

Simon Toseland, president of Wellingborough and East Northamptonshire Chamber of Commerce

Chamber president Simon Toseland said: “Plans were progressing well up until the decision to delay this process in light of the election. We understand this delay has afforded some the opportunity to question the proposed restructure of the local authorities and – we understand – a call by the Labour party to create three unitary authorities in the county rather than the two proposed, including one for Northampton town in isolation.”

Peter Bone, the Conservative candidiate for Wellingborough and Rushden in next week’s General Election, said: “As part of the process, Orders have to be laid in the House of Commons and the House of Lords and they have to be voted on. Things were merrily going along and the plans were laid but they were not voted on. Now the matter cannot be returned to until after the General Election. 

“If the Conservatives return to power, we will pass the orders and it will be back on course. An enormous amount of work has been completed by the local councils, across all parties, who are all moving forward so it is very surprising at this stage that Labour would think about scrapping the current plans. There are not enough people to make a three unitary authority, involving a separate authority for Northampton, work.”

Andrea Watts, the Labour Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Wellingborough and Rushden, said that, regardless of what happens, any proposed new structure is a mess.

“As far as I’m aware, until after the election our hands are tied. However I believe that regardless of what happens any new structure will start off with the mess that has been left behind.

“If Labour comes to power, I know that we will find the best solution for the county – for child services and for the elderly. No one is looking at the damage that has been done to the community already – people are blinkered by Brexit but the focus needs to be on communities at a local level.”

Once Parliamentary Orders are approved there will be elections to the Shadow Authorities in May 2020.  Shadow Executives for the two unitaries will be selected from those elected and will determine the structure, budget and service delivery models for the new councils.

  • Also standing for Wellingborough and Rushden are:

Suzanna Austin (Liberal Democrat).

Marion Turner-Hawes (Green Party).

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