Northamptonshire Local Government Reform
What will happen now a government decision has been made?
The Secretary of State announced in May 2019 that the two new unitary councils will be established in Northamptonshire on 1 April 2021.
Legislation must now be made and passed in Parliament in order to create the two new unitaries and abolish the existing councils.
This legislation – known as a Structural Changes Order (SCO) – was laid before Parliament in October 2019.
It has been considered by the House of Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee and it has now been noted as an ‘instrument of interest’. The draft SCO is currently laying dormant until after the general election, when it will then be considered by the new government.
The draft SCO requires approval by parliament, then two new shadow authorities would be set up – one for the West and one for the North – with responsibility for delivering the new unitary councils in time for Vesting Day 2021.
How will the shadow authorities work?
The West Northamptonshire and North Northamptonshire shadow authorities will be solely responsible for delivering the new unitary councils in time for Vesting Day April 2021.
They will not be involved in the ongoing service delivery for Northamptonshire residents and this responsibility will remain with the county, district and borough councils until they are replaced by the new unitaries in April 2021.
Elections for councillors to the new authorities are expected to take place in May 2020.
Shadow Executives for the two authorities will be selected from those elected and will lead on the work to determine the structure, budget and service delivery models for the new councils.
What’s happening in the meantime?
Until the parliamentary legislation is approved and the shadow authorities are established, the councils have set up a West Joint Committee and North Joint Committee.
These committees are carrying out the preparatory work needed to set up the two new shadow authorities and will be replaced by them once legislation is approved.
What are the key dates to set up the new unitaries?
The below is an expected timeline only and may be subject to change once the parliamentary agenda is set.
May - Government decision announced
October - Structural Change Order laid before parliament. Noted as an ‘instrument of interest’ by the House of Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee.
November – Parliament dissolved ahead of December general election – draft SCO lies dormant for future consideration by new government.
TBC - Subject to approval of the legislation by parliament, i.e. the Structural Change Order is made.
2020 – subject to approval of the Draft SCO by parliament
Elections to place for the shadow unitary authorities (plus elections for towns/parishes and police and Crime Commissioner)
February - Budgets and Council Tax approved for new unitaries
March - Existing councils cease to exist after 31 March
April - New unitary councils operational on 1 April (Vesting Day)
How will you go about creating the new unitaries?
All eight councils have agreed a way forward to deliver a programme to create the two unitaries that will see better-quality service delivery across the county.
The Future Northants unitary programme has been agreed now that Vesting Day has been set for 2021, allowing time for creating much more than just two ‘safe and legal’ authorities. It focuses on more transformational work, that will ensure better integrated services from day one, rather than after the creation of the new unitaries.
The vision for the new unitaries is set out in the Prospectus for Change.
Sustainability is key to the success of the two new unitary authorities and the councils are working with health, the voluntary sector and other key stakeholders to make it easier for residents to access the services they need and make sure the right people are working together to deliver that service.
The Future Northants programme is being delivered by a team made up of staff from all eight authorities as well as some external programme management support. A Chief Executive from each current authority is leading each of the work portfolios that make up the programme, making it a plan that is owned and delivered by all Northamptonshire councils.