Election 2019

Election 2019: Will Northants' council shake-up improve health?

Elderly lady's hands Image copyright PA Media
Image caption The provision of social care has become an election issue

How can the provision of healthcare be improved in light of the reorganisation of local government in Northamptonshire?

Alan Clark, from Dallington in Northampton, sent this question to BBC News ahead of the 12 December general election.

Although this would be a countywide issue, we put the question to the four candidates from Mr Clark's Northampton South constituency and their answers are below.

Local government in Northamptonshire: The background

A government report in 2018 recommended the scrapping of the county council, currently run by the Conservatives, which twice banned all new spending that year above what it was legally required to provide.

Plans are in place to replace the county council and the seven district/borough councils with two unitary local authorities providing all council services in their separate areas.

A draft Structural Change Order confirmed two "shadow authorities" would be set up during a transition period following local elections in May.

Labour-run Corby Borough Council was the only authority in Northamptonshire not to lend its support to the proposals.

The new North Northamptonshire and West Northamptonshire councils were due to start operating on 1 April 2021 but the position is now uncertain until after the general election.

Image caption Northamptonshire's county council would be scrapped and its districts effectively merged and given extra responsibilities

Gareth Eales (Labour):

"The only way we solve the problems with the NHS and adult social care is through investment. Local government cuts have made the situation [with social care] worse.

"Labour is committed to introducing a 'national care service' which would be free at the point of use. What we cannot continue with is where people are having to spend up to £100,000 on care.

"It is the Labour position that there should also be separate unitary authority for Northampton."

Jill Hope (Liberal Democrat):

"The county council has failed, and has failed with social care. Northampton taxpayers should be furious.

"The reorganisation of the county council is gerrymandering [redrawing political boundaries to favour one party].

"By lumping Northampton in with Daventry and South Northamptonshire, one of the richest rural areas in the country, the people struggling in poverty in Northampton are not going to get a look in.

"Northampton has to have its own authority. Its needs and problems are so different from the surrounding rural areas, that the unitary authorities as proposed will be a disaster for Northampton."

Andrew Lewer (Conservative, who won the seat in 2017 with a 1,159 majority over Labour):

"I think reorganisation provides a huge number of a opportunities for better joined-up thinking in local government.

"I have spent a long time in local government and I have come increasingly to the view that unitary government is a much more efficient and effective way of delivering the goods and that is particularly relevant in the combination of housing and social care functions.

"It is the structures of adult care, NHS and social care staff working together, more integrated care services that is key to healthcare in Northamptonshire."

Scott Mabbutt (Green):

"What has happened to money to local government in the last 10 years? It has been cut. The first thing the Green Party would do is reverse those cuts, to try and bring some stability.

"We would direct our local government funding to improving care for people at home so they do not have to go into residential care.

"We favour a Northampton-only unitary, because we need services that match our demographic. The social care needs of an urban population are very different from the rural population."

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