What ‘Future Northants,’ divided into two with more and more cuts to services! Little has been done by the local councils to consult with local people about their future governance; it seams that local councillors see two unitaries as a done deal. The criteria the government has set has meant that the consultation, that ends today, is a farce and the questionnaire at www.futurenorthants.co.uk forces people to back this madness!
Central Government’s criteria for all new unitary authorities to have a population greater than 300,000 is not a fair requirement. What evidence does the Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government have to say that the dozen or so English unitary authorities with over 300,000 population are performing so much better than the 43 others? Northampton alone as a unitary, with a population of 228000, would rank 22/55 and West Northamptonshire without Northampton would still rank 35/55. If size truly mattered, Northamptonshire County Council, population of 745,000 and receiving 70% of our Council Tax, wouldn’t have any financial problems. It’s clearly not size that ensures the success of a Unitary Authority, more likely almost entirely dependent on the change management expertise of a Chief executive and the top management team. I don’t really think change of structures is the issue; cuts in funding and bad management is.
Making a 300,000 figure up is a politically motivated statistic to ensure that all councils in Northamptonshire are governed by the Conservatives; the same party that has caused the crisis that the proposed solution is trying to fix. This figure means that a 2 unitary council solution is the only option that fits the criteria leaving no choices for the people of Northants and thus leaving this consultation a farse. The unitiaries are doomed to failure if they are to be run by the same councillors and party as before. It will not change anything but structures; where better management solutions are required.
Decent services are what we want from our councils, not cuts to valuable essential services. I took part in a protest with a group called ‘Action 34’ on Friday, who have been campaigning for weeks to stop the withdrawal due to funding cuts from Northamptonshire County Council. Around 40 of us in Wellingborough brought the town to a standstill and several police officers turned out too. We were on Look East that evening and on Northampton Radio throughout the day! This was organised by a group of pensioners protesting about cuts to their bus service; why aren’t more people out on the streets standing up against the nasty political choices made by councillors at Northamptonshire County Council. Decent services are what we expect from any current or changed type of council. The good news is that group haven’t finished protesting yet!
I don’t really think we need to change what councils we have; but if change of structure is needed, it would be better to utilise the comparatively strong borough and district councils and just combine those who share so much already. I see no reason why smaller unitary councils can’t be set up; these could be one for Northampton, one for Daventry and South Northants, one for Wellingborough and East Northants, and one for Kettering and Corby. These areas already work closely together, the councils already collaborate and these unitaries would widely share the same demographics. Councils are there to serve us, the people; not greedy politicians. The proposed two unitaries are being set up for political reasons to ensure Conservative dominance continues – we deserve better.
Find out more at https://northamptonshire.communityvoices.org.uk/