Daventry and South Northants councillors argue case for their own unitary authority separate from Northampton
More than 150 district, parish and town councillors concerned about dividing Northamptonshire into two unitary authorities have asked the Government to consider making Daventry and South Northants into a single authority.
After serious criticisms of the county council, the Government wants to replace it and all district and borough councils with unitary authorities.
Daventry, Northampton and South Northamptonshire will become a West Northamptonshire unitary while Corby, Kettering, Wellingborough and East Northamptonshire will make up a North Northamptonshire unitary.
In a letter to James Brokenshire, the Secretary of State for housing, communities and local government, 21 parish councils and 170 parish, town and district councillors in Daventry and South Northants districts have put forward their alternative.
"We are concerned that the current proposal to combine Daventry and South Northants Districts with Northampton borough would be detrimental to local democracy, the engagement of communities in decision-making and the provision of local services.
"Northampton is a large town with problems common to most urban areas. Daventry and South Northants, however, are districts of small market towns, villages and rural areas with issues which are very different from those of Northampton.”
The councillors believe a local authority that includes Northampton, which has a much larger population, is likely to focus more on the town's issues and that other communities may not get the attention they require.
Labour Councillor Ken Ritchie said: "We accept that re-organisation is needed, but it must be done in a way that recognises that different parts of the county have different needs and concerns.
"We want decisions that affect us to be taken by councillors who have been elected in our towns and villages and who understand our local issues, leaving things that are important to Northampton to be decided by councillors elected in Northampton town."
In August, all eight of Northamptonshire's councils voted on whether to go ahead with the unitary plans.
One local authority, Corby Council, voted against though only two councils needed to vote in favour of the proposal to be put to the Government.
Conservative Daventry District Councillor Deanna Eddon said: "I did vote for this in our full council meeting but very reluctantly, as I felt that the options put before us from Government gave me no alternative.
"To combine two rural councils with a large urban council who have different needs, visions etc, in my opinion, will not work.
"A unitary for the two rural councils and a separate unitary for Northampton would have been a better option.
"Since that vote, my concerns have grown with every new piece of information that has been given out, and I had no hesitation, on seeing the letter that has now been circulated, in asking for my name to be added, asking for consideration of two unitary councils instead of one."
The alternative favoured by the concerned councillors is for Northampton to retain its own council.
They question the need for the county's unitaries to have at least 300,000 residents (as stipulated by Government), arguing that "bigger does not necessarily mean better and more cost effective, as the experience of Northamptonshire County Council sadly demonstrates".
As for adult social care and children's services, the councillors believe these can be accountable to three unitaries.
South Northants Liberal Democrat Councillor Catherine Lomax said: "We are not against a move to unitary authorities, but local government should remain as local as possible.
"Combining Daventry and South Northants – two districts of similar size and with similar characteristics – may not be ideal, but it would be much preferable to putting them together with Northampton.
"A Daventry-South Northants council would be much better able to represent our villages and ensure they get the services they need."
Conservative Daventry District Councillor Alan Chantler said: "I put my name down because I have always said during these discussions that it's a mistake to combine the 2 rural areas and the largely urban Northampton. The needs are different, the resources are different and the organisation is different, which will cause tension between two disparate groups.
"This is my view and a number of people share that view."
Mr Brokenshire's consultation ended last Friday (January 25) and he is expected to make an announcement before the Parliamentary recess at the start of April.