Business leaders express concern over delay to new council structure

Business leaders express concern over delay to new council structure

Business leaders in Wellingborough 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 and 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 an annual general meeting last month, the Chamber voted to expand its membership to include East Northamptonshire.

This resolution means that businesses throughout East Northants, including Rushden, Higham Ferrers, Thrapston, Kingscliffe and Oundle, can now join the combined Chamber of Commerce and benefit from the services offered through membership including working with other local businesses, lobbying local or central government, championing links between the business and education sectors and helping to ensure that their voices are heard.

Simon Toseland, President of the Wellingborough & East Northants Chamber of Commerce, said: “In May the Secretary of State, James Brokenshire, reviewed all the evidence and representations received and decided that replacing the eight councils with two unitary authorities would be in the best interests of the residents of Northamptonshire.

“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 re-structure 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”

Conservative Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Wellingborough and Rushden, Peter Bone, 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 regardless of what happens any proposed new structure is a mess.

She said:

“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.

“I have heard on the grapevine that Northampton will be putting in a protest for a third unitary, but nothing has come of it. There have been no meetings since the election was called.

“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.

Picture: MP Peter Bone speaking at Wellingborough Chamber of Commerce's breakfast briefing

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