Unitary Northampton and Independence to work to deliver what the people of Northampton want.
Northampton’s 217,000 residents make it the largest town in England which does not have unitary status, meaning it depends on another Local Government authority to deliver education, health, highways, policing, social and welfare services and dare I say it street lighting.
It also means that another authority can impose cuts to services on the people of Northampton as we have seen in the latest County Council cuts, without any consultation with the Borough Council.
I firmly believe that the majority of the people living in Northampton want to see a confident, ambitious and progressive 21st Century town to work and live in, developed alongside the restoration and inclusion of the fantastic heritage opportunities that the town’s history has to offer.
In fact a Unitary Authority would fit in well with the independence of mind (some would say bloody minded attitude) that the people of Northampton have demonstrated throughout its history and continue to demonstrate today.
It is why I have always been consistent in stating that the town should seek Unitary Status and with it the ability to take the leading role and decisions in developing and realising the towns and its people’s potential.
Unitary Status would provide the Borough Council with the independence to work with and enter into partnerships and share services based on meeting the needs of the people of Northampton.
Politically it would mean that the electorate would have a single council and its councillors to hold to account for their actions and avoid the current situation of people’s being told “sorry, that’s the County Council and vice versa “that’s the Borough Council” and all the delays in resolving the situation and issues that it brings with it.
It would of course under the current system see a reduction in Councillors who are currently elected to the County and the scrapping of County Councillor Electoral Wards with significant savings of over £500,000 not only in allowances but also the associated costs of holding County Council elections in the Borough.
An independent Unitary Northampton Borough Council may then wish to consider applying for City status if the opportunity comes available through a Royal Decree and if it is in the best interest of Northampton which is why I was very pleased to read that the Leader of the Council has not definitely ruled out an application when stating recently “there were no plans to apply in the foreseeable future”.
Of course the only way unitary status can be obtained is by canvassing our local MPs and through contacts at the highest levels of Government, something which I believe the new Leader is ideally placed to influence.
It is a campaign that would have even greater weight if all political parties and independents got behind it with a clear time frame for its implementation.
I believe that Northampton should aim to be a unitary council two years after the next General Election in May 2017 which is why I will be supporting the Labour motion to full council on the 5th December for this to be taken forward as Council policy and to seek support for a Borough wide referendum on the issue to be carried out at the same time as the County Council election in May 2013.
Towns that are smaller or of a comparative size to Northampton like Bedford, Ipswich, Milton Keynes and Luton are all unitary authorities and have demonstrated that not only does it work through putting their town and people first but also saves money by eliminating one layer of bureaucracy.
For instance, why did we have officers and councillors at the Borough Council having to negotiate with officers and councillors at the County Council before we could progress with the new bus interchange, the same goes for street lighting, education, policing etc. It makes no sense at either the business, political or practical level.
I fully respect the current Leader of the Councils position as stated on BBC Northampton on the 31st October that he has been on record as opposing unitary status since 2006, that of course is what democracy is all about but given the Conservatives keenness on holding referendums on other issues then surely it is the people of Northampton who should be given the opportunity to decide.
The only reason I can see for those on the Borough Council opposing unitary status is if there is an intention to reduce the Borough services to a level at which it will become no more than an annexe of the County Council and make it ripe for another attempt by those with ambitions to develop a Northamptonshire Unitary authority under the total control of the County Council.
I firmly believe that the people of Northampton should and will resist such a move.