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ENC agrees preferred structure for new unitary

Published Tuesday, 26 February 2019

East Northamptonshire Council is the first authority in the county to agree on the proposed content of the Structural Change Order (SCO)

– the legal document that sets out the provisions for the structure of the new authorities.

The content of SCO is the ultimate decision of the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government;, however, the authorities involved in the process have an opportunity to set out their preferences. 

At a full council meeting on 25 February 2019, ENC councillors agreed the following:

  • The north unitary council to be a district council with county powers
  • The shadow authority to have executive governance with an ‘overview and scrutiny’ committee
  • First elections to take place in May 2020, then 2025 and subsequently every four years after that
  • The North Northamptonshire shadow executive to comprise of 15 councillors - three from each north authority and three from Northamptonshire County Council (NCC)
  • Two votes in the Shadow Council (not the Shadow executive) per twin-hatted councillors (those who sit on NCC and one of the districts and boroughs]
  • 78 councillors to sit on the North Northamptonshire Council; three councillors per existing North Northamptonshire NCC division
  • A section 24 order to be put in place on all current authorities which restricts significant spending, new contracts and disposal of assets
  • To pass planning policy powers to the new unitary as the partners in the current Joint Planning Committee will not exist 

Steven North, Leader of East Northamptonshire Council, said: “We had a good discussion about the content of the Structural Change Order and feel that the restriction on spending over a certain level makes good sense as it prevents anyone going into large new contractual arrangements that would bind a successor authority. 

“We also feel that the numbers of councillors proposed for the new authority and the equal spread from each current authority means that residents are fairly represented. It shows strength of unity and realisation that it is a proper shadow executive of all five councils and there isn’t a cabinet acting alone.” 

Council leaders and senior officers will liaise with the SoS on the final detail of the order, which will be formally laid before Parliament for approval. Once the Order is made, other consequential orders will follow as part of the process to abolish the current councils in 2020 and establish two new unitary authorities.