16 Apr Interim arrangements for North and West Northamptonshire shadow councils agreed by Government
Plans to create two new unitary councils for the county from next April will now continue within the planned timescales following the confirmation today of new legislation by the government.
Following the postponement of May’s local elections because of the Covid-19 pandemic, an alternative approach and new legislation were needed for the creation of the organisations.
The response to the current Public Health emergency is the top priority for all councils in the county. However all Council leaders recently welcomed the news that new legislation was being published to ensure the changes to local government would not interfere with the Covid-19 response.
As expected, the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has now set out these changes to the legislation passed in Parliament earlier this year. The amended regulations were published today and will come into effect on 8 May.
This means the North and West Shadow Councils will still be set up next month to lead the preparations for creating the two unitary councils. Instead of being made up of newly elected councillors, they will combine the membership of the existing district, borough and county councils. The existing councillors will sit on the shadow authorities until 1 April 2021. The elections to the new unitary councils will then place on 6 May 2021. This is the procedure that MHCLG adopted for the creation of new unitary councils in Buckinghamshire, Dorset and Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole, electing councillors directly to the shadow authority is more unusual when creating new councils.
The Shadow North Northamptonshire Council will comprise of 152 members, and the Shadow West Northamptonshire Council will comprise of 134 members.*
At present, the Local Government Reform programme is overseen by two groups, a Leaders’ Oversight Board, comprising all eight leaders and two Joint Committees, one for the north and one for the west. MHCLG has decided to use these governance arrangements to select Leaders and Deputy Leaders of the two shadow authorities with a term of office from now until May 2021. They propose to use the Leaders’ Oversight Board to appoint the Chairs, and the Joint Committees to appoint the Deputy Chairs.
Cllr Russell Roberts, the Chair of the Leaders’ Oversight Board, will be the Leader for the Shadow North Northamptonshire Council with Cllr Martin Griffiths, the Chair of the North Joint Committee, as Deputy Leader.
Cllr Ian McCord, the Deputy Chair of the Leaders’ Oversight Board, will be the Leader for the Shadow West Northamptonshire Council with Cllr Jonathan Nunn, the Chair of the West Joint Committee, as Deputy Leader.
Dates for the first meetings of the two shadow councils have yet to be confirmed and they will both be held virtually, with opportunities for the public to take part. Dates and details will be posted on futurenorthantsnorth.org and futurenorthantswest.org websites.
Executive committees for each shadow council will also be established and these will be made up of two representatives from each of the current councils, consisting of the Leader plus another Councillor.
For the shadow North Northamptonshire Council, there will be 10 members on the Executive and the West Northamptonshire Council Shadow Executive will be made up of 8 members. The Leader of Northamptonshire County Council (NCC), Cllr Matt Golby, will sit on the West shadow executive as his division is in the West. Two Cabinet members from NCC will join the North Northamptonshire Shadow Executive.
Cllr Russell Roberts, Leader of Kettering Borough Council, said: “Many resources from across the county have been drafted in to assist with the Covid-19 response and some of those recruited to the Future Northants Team have been reassigned to this work. As a result of this, the scope of the Future Northants Programme will be reviewed to understand what needs to and can be delivered for 1 April 2021.
Due to the current situation in the country the planned May 2020 elections have been postponed until 2021. In addition to my present responsibilities I have been requested by central government to take on the role of Leader of the North Northamptonshire Shadow Unitary.
I would like to re-assure all our residents that our priority is to assist with the multi-agency response to the current COVID-19 pandemic – providing our residents, businesses and communities with the help and support they need during these unprecedented times.
Whilst we continue with our range of essential council services for our residents, the government (through approved new legislation) have requested that the local councils in the county continue to aim for a go-live date of 1 April 2021 in relation to the creation of 2 new Unitary councils.
Government officials have followed a model used in other local government re-organisations, although clearly not in the circumstances we find ourselves in. Further dialogue will be required once the timeframes are clearer. At the present time, we simply do not know whether this is achievable – until we are further through the current public health crisis.
Whilst we will do all that we can to progress things going forward, in line with the legislation, I must reiterate that our priority is the multi-agency response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Source: Future Northants