Northampton -a Unitary Authority.
This Council has agreed that a Northampton Unitary Authority is the way forward and a goal to aim for in the near future. The leader of the administration says there are discussions with other districts and boroughs and in fact Northampton is the chair of those meetings. I know that we have had an update from this administration, that this council is determined to enter a bid to become a Unitary Authority and what that might mean. I know as well that combining the 7 districts and boroughs might save the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government billions of pounds. And it is my opinion that this would still be catastrophic for the residents of Northampton.
It is clear discussions about Northampton becoming a Unitary Authority have been going on for some time with no obvious progress. Given that a meeting with Deloittes is tomorrow, I thought it essential to remind the administration that:
- becoming a Unitary Authority is a vital step, making one accountable Nothampton Council responsible to our electorate. It should also lead to greater proactive, efficient, transparent and accountable decision-making processes. Joined-up decisions means doing away with expensive duplication of services
- our determination to make Unitary happen. We need to express our determination and show our the residents of Northampton we are serious about regenerating services. This will come through building for need (schools, a new hospital, houses), providing high quality jobs, income generation and making sure people have money in their pockets to spends in the town.
Recent statistics show people who live in the borough of Northampton are amongst the lowest wages earners in the country and not surprisingly, Northampton has the highest personal debt in the country. This shocking situation explains why hard-working families find themselves in working poverty, standing in food bank queues and struggling to pay their way. We, the Labour Group, need to remind people this would not happen under a Labour government and administration. We need to take our and their future inhouse and bring about sustainable development for our town. It can be done with vision and innovation. Which brings me onto the implosion of the Tory run County Council. I know colleagues will say that the problems encountered by the County Council are, in the main, due to the 50 percent cut in Tory Government funding to local authorities over the last 8 years. I know borough colleagues will say they are doing everything they can to achieve the Unitary goal, but we are where we are. So, lets think about Ella.
Ella is a charming, bright and clever 12 year-old sassy young woman who attends a local school and who wants to go to Oxford to read Law. Ella’s aspiration doesn’t end there. She wants what we all want. Access to world class education and a good career, excellent job opportunities which will mean she can afford to live in her home town, access to proper healthcare free at the point of delivery and to own her own home. Also, if the time is right and its right for her, to nurture and encourage her own family in the way her mum and dad are doing for her right now. We must create a town where each and every resident of Northampton can fulfil their personal aims and aspirations and achieve the priorities in their lives because those priorities should be our priorities. That’s what we have been elected to do.
Unfortunately some things just don’t charge – we are still the largest town in the country with the grubbiest, litter-strewn streets, poor street lighting, crumbling social housing stock which suffers from a cavalier attitude to the environment and maintenance of those estates. We are still owed tens of millions of pounds because of poor due diligence and decision- making processes. We still have clogged roads and streets with poor and at times, illegal air quality. There are still small business and shops closing around the borough. In my ward alone there are 10 empty shops; a worrying rise in serious acquisitive crime and a substantial number of asset rich, cash poor older people who are struggling to pay a massive increase in council tax.
Being a unitary authority will enable this Council to make good the hopes and dreams of our residents and to give each one a decent home to live in and the means to pay for it. However, there must also be a framework to achieve good Unitary based decisions:
- Innovative and focused, adaptable and flexible cost effective financial structures that will allow Northampton to continue to grow decades into the future
- Recognising and responding to the needs of the people of Northampton, one of the fastest growing regions in the country
- Recognising our town’s borders need to change so that we are not subject to rushed, ill thought through planning decisions which means revenue generation schemes such as new housing and developments are on the wrong side of our boundary, but we are left to deal with increased traffic congestion and everything that means
- Open, clear and transparent decision-making processes which means the Council will never again find itself being owed millions of pounds
Labour can and will make a success of building a strong, vibrant, solid Unitary authority with resilient and cohesive communities, wealth creating commercial opportunities and empowering individuals to achieve and contribute to their society.