What happened to all the hype on unitary status for Northampton? A few months ago the political establishment in Northampton got themselves really excited believing that local government reorganisation was back on the agenda. Now this unitary status talk for Northampton has disappeared again probably only resurface in a couple of years.
For the past twenty five years it has been a long running frustration that unlike other large urban areas Northampton does not have unitary status. Unitary status is where there is just one Council for the area that does everything rather than having two councils (a Borough Council and a County Council) that deliver different services. If our great town is going to compete with other large towns and cities in attracting businesses, investment and visitors then we need both our Councils working closely together. Unfortunately Northampton Borough Council and Northamptonshire County Council have never really seen eye to eye, even when they have been controlled by the same political party. Relations between the Borough Council and County Council have ranged from grudging reluctant partnership to outright hostility between the two. I am biased but it is usually the County Council’s fault!
Leicester, Derby and Milton Keynes were granted unitary status in 1997. Bedford obtained this privilege in 2009. These places now have just one council that can deliver truly joined up and integrated public services. They have just one set of councillors as well. Here in Northampton we have two sets of politicians, Borough Councillors and County Councillors. The present two tier system is wasteful and out dated for the modern world. Anybody must surely see that having just one Council rather than two means less bureaucracy and more efficiency.
So as unitary status for Northampton falls away from the headlines once again those of us who believe it is the way forward must continue to make the case. Northampton should have a unitary council with town boundaries extended to take in developments like Grange Park and Buckton Fields.
Cllr Nazim Choudary
Labour, St Davids ward