Recently, I wrote to all Parish Councils asking them for their thoughts on what they see as their worries and potential opportunities for delivery of services going forward - and indeed asking them for any views they had at all.
Over the summer a lot has happened. The vast majority of councils across the County signed a submission to the Secretary of State for Local Government, James Brokenshire, asking him to concentrate on developing a proposal for two unitary councils to replace the existing County, District and Borough Councils.
I asked this as I do believe we should be looking to shape how these bodies are formed, the level of democratic representation within them (how many Councillors would each Unitary Authority have, for example?), evolve ideas around how planning decisions can be kept as local as possible (there is a lot of best practice already in existence in this area), to shape the services they deliver and to ensure they are not so burdened with the debt of the past, that they almost immediately fail in the future.
I’ve had a number of meetings across my constituency over the last few weeks to listen to people’s views on these matters, as well as meeting with the Leaders of Councils within my Constituency, the Leader of the County Council and one of the Commissioners appointed to rectify the issues of the County Council. I met with the Chair of the Northamptonshire Association of Local Councils (that represent and advise Town and Parish Councils) to talk through these issues and see how we can work together in the coming weeks and months.
In the coming weeks, the County Council will issue its plan to endeavour to balance its budget in the coming eighteen months and from what I have been told, a huge amount of work has gone on over the summer that has identified a number of quite large savings the County can make without much change in the quality or quantity of the services it provides. I know no more than this at the moment, but anticipate finding out more in early October when it makes public its financial plans.
So, I would like to think I am aware of the various questions people are asking about the future of local government in Northamptonshire and the opportunities and threats the coming reorganisation might bring - and I am doing all I can to stimulate conversation and thought around how we can make the future unitary councils a success. Thus I’d appreciate any comments that constituents have going forward and ask you to get involved in the debate on these matters that you will doubtlessly be having at future Parish meetings locally. If you have any comments or concerns then please get in touch via email, firstname.lastname@example.org.