South Northamptonshire could break away from the county council under plans to simplify local government.
South Northants Council (SNC) announced today that it is adding its support to a proposal to devolve power in neighbouring Oxfordshire.
The proposal would see South Northamptonshire and Cherwell districts joining together as a new unitary authority – combining the powers of district and county councils.
Currently the district council is responsible for things like planning, collecting bins and administering certain benefits, while the county looks after roads, street lights, disposing of household waste, and social services.
At the same time other unitary authorities would be created in Oxfordshire, and together they would ask the government for extra powers including covering things like the NHS.
SNC already works extensively with Cherwell District Council, and the proposals are seen as an extension of this.
Cllr Ian McCord, leader of South Northamptonshire Council said: “SNC has a long standing and successful partnership with Cherwell District Council. We already share a management team and have joint departments in many areas.
“We have saved many millions of pounds through this partnership over the past five years.
“It seems logical to investigate the feasibility and viability of creating a combined district unitary council based on the current boundaries of both councils.
“The councils will now be commissioning independent experts to work with them and other stakeholders in producing detailed, costed plans that will ensure the best and most cost-effective solutions are identified.
“Detailed proposals will be considered by each of the councils prior to public consultation in the summer.”
If the plans go through, which would require Government approval, Northamptonshire County Council would have no responsibilities in South Northants, although the district would remain part of Northamptonshire for other purposes.
However, the leader of Northamptonshire County Council has questioned the wisdom of the proposals, and said losing South Northants would impact on its plans for the future of the county.
Cllr Jim Harker, leader of NCC, said: “This does not appear to represent a good option for the people of Northamptonshire or indeed the wider region. Here in Northamptonshire do we really want to lose a large chunk of our historic county to a neighbouring one?
“While we are certainly not against the idea of redesigning local government this proposal for the creation of a number of small unitaries works against many of the bigger agendas in the region.
“We are delivering a sustainability and transformation plan based on county-based and county-wide health and care organisations – an approach agreed by health and social care commissioners.
“In addition to this our transport planning is via the England Economic Heartland so fragmenting into small unitaries does not on the face of it make sense and arguably would not enable our NHS partners to operate the most effectively.”