Councillors tasked with progressing proposals for a new West Northamptonshire unitary authority met this week to consider the complex financial journey ahead.
At their first meeting of the new year, members of the West Northamptonshire Joint Committee endorsed a report that sets out how finances will be managed and monitored for the Future Northants unitary programme, the work to create two new unitary councils for the county by 1 April 2021.
The report, which will also be considered by the North Northamptonshire Joint Committee on 16 January, sets out the Programme’s financial baseline position – a starting point of assumed costs for creating the two new unitary authorities and potential savings that could be made.
The baseline figures estimates a required investment of £43.5m, which includes £18m of Business Rates Pilot funding, to transform and move across their services to form the two new unitary authorities, which could achieve a possible yearly budget saving of £85.9m.
At Tuesday night’s meeting in Northampton’s Guildhall (7 January), Committee Members heard that the estimated costs and savings were likely to change as the programme developed and the baseline figures were being used as a benchmark to monitor and report future financial progress.
Chairman of the West Northamptonshire Joint Committee Councillor Jonathan Nunn said: “The finance report presented to the Committee is encouraging and indicates that creating the two new unitary councils is expected to deliver significant financial benefits alongside improved, joined-up services for residents countywide.
“At this early stage of the programme, the costs and savings have to be based on assumptions and given the breadth, depth and complexity of the task facing us, these figures will certainly change. But it’s important we set out a starting point to map the major financial journey ahead of us towards the creation of the two new authorities.”
At the meeting the Committee also considered arrangements for recruiting the senior managers that will head the proposed new unitary authorities.
Members endorsed an approach and timescales for appointing statutory roles required by law to be filled when the two Shadow authorities are created in May, including a Head of Paid Service, Chief Finance (Section 151) Officer and Monitoring Officer each for North and West.
The arrangements include putting in place a series of ‘caretaker’ positions for these roles from May 2020 then appointing permanently to the posts later in the summer.
The two Shadow Authorities are scheduled to be formed in May 2020 with responsibility for delivering the new unitary councils and setting their first budgets and council tax. Until then, the joint committees continue to take responsibility for putting unitary plans in place.