Northampton

Northamptonshire County Council: Cost of new unitary authorities swells by £14m

One Angel Square, Northamptonshire County Council HQ
Image caption Initial estimates said the two new councils would cost £30m to establish

A further £14m will be needed to set-up two new unitary authority councils in a county experiencing a cash-crisis.

Northamptonshire County Council (NCC) needs to save £42.9m in 2019-20 before it and seven local district and borough councils are scrapped in 2020.

It was thought the two new councils would cost £30m to establish, but the figure is now nearer £44m, according to a report seen by senior staff.

NCC leader Matt Golby said he was "alarmed by the ever-increasing cost".

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, he said he was "seeking to get more information" about why the amount of money needed had risen so sharply.

One unitary authority will serve north Northamptonshire, with the other responsible for the west of the county.

It follows a recommendation by government inspector Max Caller amid a financial crisis at the Conservative-controlled county council, which saw it twice ban all-but-essential spending in 2018.

Image caption Protestors gathered outside County Hall on several occasions last year to protest against council cuts

Seven of the eight Northamptonshire councils agreed to the joint submission for the unitary proposals, with Labour-led Corby the exception.

The reorganisation is still awaiting government approval, but work has already started on the transition as confirmation is all but certain.

The costs for setting up the new unitary authorities are being funded by the councils themselves, who have each set aside funds to go into a so-called "transformation pot".

Keith Cheesman, who previously oversaw the reorganisation of several Dorset district councils into a unitary authority, will lead the project.

But he has indicated that previous estimates for the cost of the transition, which were included in a PwC report examining different unitary models, may be outdated.

Revised estimated costs include £7.9m on redundancies - almost £3m more than estimates in the PwC report, £1.7m on relocation costs and £5.3m on consultancy.

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