Seminars offer fresh insight into unitary councils

County, district and borough councillors from across Northamptonshire joined up recently for a valuable insight into the process of creating new unitary authorities.

Elected members and senior council officers from the county’s eight local authorities gathered for the two seminars at Northampton’s Franklin’s Gardens on 29 November and 3 December.

Hosted by the Local Government Association (LGA), the sessions featured guest speakers from other councils nationwide that are going through similar re-organisation, including Poole and East Dorset, and from those who have already made the transition to unitary status including Bedford, Durham, Cornwall and Bracknell Forest.

Councillors learned more about the major milestones of the whole unitary process, from creating new shadow authorities right through to ensuring safe and effective service delivery from day one of the new council. They discussed issues including harmonising Council Tax rates across new council areas, continuing to deliver services whilst shaping a new authority and the benefits and challenges from changing to a single-tier authority.

Northamptonshire is currently awaiting a decision from the Secretary of State on whether its eight existing councils will be replaced with two new unitary authorities from May 2020. Before this decision, the Government is running an eight-week consultation on the proposal, which ends on 25 January 2019 – to take part visit https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/the-proposed-reorganisation-of-local-government-in-northamptonshire

Leader of East Northamptonshire Council, Steven North, commented:

“This was a good learning opportunity for members and senior offices to find out more about the preparation required for setting up a unitary authority. We’re always looking to learn from others experiences and hearing from those at various stages of the process was informative and helpful.”

Members who attended the seminars came from Corby Borough Council, Daventry District Council, East Northamptonshire Council, Kettering Borough Council, Northampton Borough Council, Northamptonshire County Council, South Northamptonshire Council and the Borough Council of Wellingborough.

While the decision from the Secretary of State is awaited, all formal decisions relating to the process in Northamptonshire will continue to be made by each of the councils through their usual committee systems.

For more information and updates about Local Government Reform in Northamptonshire, visit www.east-northamptonshire.gov.uk

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