With tackling the Coronavirus everyone’s top priority, plans for creating two new councils in Northamptonshire will be scaled down, with a new approach called ‘Safe and Legal Plus’.
New legislation that came into effect on 8 May, as expected confirms the new North and West Northamptonshire Councils will start on 1 April 2021. This follows the postponement of this spring’s scheduled unitary elections due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The North and West Shadow Councils’ Executives at their first meetings in late June will be considering proposals to prioritise work to ensure all services are set up safely and legally for day one of the two new authorities, whilst still working hard to bring together and improve as many existing services as possible.
Preparations will continue towards setting up the new countywide Children’s Trust by 1 April next year, with the timescale dependent on the ongoing pandemic response.
The priorities of the proposed revised Safe and Legal Plus programme include:
· Ensuring all services for the new councils are ready to go next April so residents continue to access services as they usually would.
· Setting up the new North and West shadow authorities, which are made up of the existing district, borough and county councillors. They will meet in June and replace the West and North Northants Joint Committees.
· Ensuring budgets are set for each new council, and developing plans for equalising Council Tax rates across each unitary area.
· Bringing together the existing district and borough services into the new North and West unitary councils and splitting county council services across the two areas.
· Even better joint working in Adults Services and Health and Social Care, with improved ways of working to improve services for residents and deliver significant savings.
Cllr Russell Roberts, Leader of the new North Northamptonshire Shadow Authority said: “Our councils and services are facing unprecedented challenges in responding to the Covid pandemic and the health and welfare of our residents is at the forefront of everything we are doing.
“We’re working on the assumption that safe and legal is deliverable by 1 April 2021 but due to the uncertainty that exists at the moment, we will continually review what is possible to achieve and by when as we move through the next few months.
“We’ve had to re-think our ambitions as to what we can achieve by Go Live Day, but while the focus is on Safe and Legal we’ll be doing what we can between now and April.”
Councillor Ian McCord, Leader of the new West Northamptonshire Shadow Authority, said: “Providing essential public services to residents and businesses during the Coronavirus pandemic has rightly been our top priority, with work on the new councils put on the back burner. As a result, we’ve had to scale back how much we can do before launch of the two new councils next April.
“We’ll certainly have each new council up and running on time, but will complete much of the behind-the-scenes work of integrating staff from the previous councils later on. What’s most important is that residents relying on public services continue to see them run smoothly.”W