08 March 2016

A debate on how local government could be run in Northamptonshire has commenced following a request from all seven of the county’s MPs.

A number of options for how unitary government could operate in the county would be considered and evaluated in terms of how services could be provided in the best way and how much value for money they offered.

It is estimated that unitary governance in Northamptonshire could save the taxpayer up to £80million each year.

Is a review needed?

The leader of the county council Cllr Jim Harker has said a re-design of local government is one part of the wider innovation which is required in how services are provided for the people of Northamptonshire as the county continues to face further population pressures with less money available.

Northamptonshire County Council has already announced plans for its Next Generation Model of providing services through commissioned enterprises rather than directly and significant steps have been taken towards integration with health services and emergency services.

On a larger scale, the England’s Economic Heartland strategic alliance is being proposed as the future of transport provision in the wider region and creating the infrastructure needed for economic growth.

Cllr Harker said: “I’m very pleased to have received a letter from all seven of the county’s MPs recognising that we need to start the process of considering unitary government in Northamptonshire.

“There are some obvious options for how this might work and these would need to be properly evaluated in terms of quality of services and value for money and, of course, we would need wider consultation with the people of the county.

“Obviously scale is an important consideration regarding local government and looking at unitary arrangements elsewhere in the country, places with populations between 700,000 and 1million tend to work better than smaller areas.

“We are committed to our next generation model of commissioning services from a new set of social enterprises in the county so we can deliver quality services and wide-scale collaboration with health while meeting our financial challenges, so it is essential that whichever model of government builds on this critical work.”

What happens next?

The concept of unitary governance will be discussed with all political parties initially before firmer proposals are drawn up and considered.

Cllr Harker continued: “Whichever model is chosen, collaboration with partners is key to going forward and we should not just become fixated on local government as a sector in isolation

“We are delivering a sustainability and transformation plan based on county-based and county-wide health and care organisations – an approach agreed by health and social care commissioners.

“With the Police – there are huge opportunities for us to provide a modern, fit-for-purpose blue light service, while saving money with continued integration of police and fire.

“And there are opportunities to be had on the collaboration of waste services.”