Northamptonshire unitaries have nowhere for all councillors to meet

Published
Image caption,
Councillors meeting in County Hall approved massive cuts to jobs and services across Northamptonshire in August 2018

Two new councils formed following the financial collapse of an authority which spent £53m on new headquarters do not have anywhere big enough to conduct full council meetings.

West and North Northamptonshire councils have replaced debt-ridden Northamptonshire County Council.

The lack of large enough council chambers means the new authorities will have to pay to hire venues.

The first ever elections for both North and West Northamptonshire unitary councils take place on Thursday.

Image caption,
One Angel Square in Northampton cost £53m to build, but does not have a council chamber

The authorities will take over services not only from the old county council, but also from the seven district and borough councils across Northamptonshire, which were also scrapped as part of the local government reorganisation.

North Northants Council will have 78 councillors, while West Northants Council will have 93.

None of the headquarters previously belonging to the eight axed authorities have big enough council chambers to accommodate all the relevant members and council officers.

This includes County Hall, where the now-defunct county council's full council meetings took place.

That authority's One Angel Square headquarters, which opened in 2017 at a cost of £53m, never had a council chamber.

Financial pressures at the council meant the building had to be sold and rented back to them.

County Hall, Northampton
BBC
Money in a unitary world

Financial pluses and minuses of the new councils

  • £520mCounty council debt to be split between the new unitaries

  • £85mTotal savings associated with the transformation into two new authorities

  • £49mTransformation savings already delivered

  • £36mSavings still to be delivered.

Source: West Northamptonshire Council

It is likely North Northants' initial full council meetings will take place at Kettering Conference Centre, while Northampton Saints' Franklin's Gardens home has been mentioned as one possible venue for West Northants.

A spokesman for North Northamptonshire Council confirmed it "does not have a defined HQ".

He added that no decisions had been made on the future of buildings formerly used by Kettering Borough Council, East Northamptonshire Council, Corby Borough Council or the Borough Council of Wellingborough.

The spokesman said any decisions on both "a defined HQ" and how the other buildings "are best utilised" would be for elected members to make.

He said plans for the authority's first full council meeting on 26 May were being "finalised".

Image caption,
Corby Cube was home to Corby Borough Council, but it has not been decided where the new headquarters for North Northamptonshire Council will be

A spokesman for West Northamptonshire Council said "no conclusions" had been reached regarding its buildings.

He said One Angel Square has been named as the authority's headquarters "for legal purposes", but that "could be changed".

The spokesman said no decision had been taken on what to do with County Hall, Northampton Borough Council's Guildhall or council buildings in South Northamptonshire and Daventry.

He said the authority was "committed to retaining a localised presence and making sure a number of community hubs exist".

The spokesman said "no decision has been taken on where full council meetings will be held in future," but added it did not have to be in the same buildings that contained offices.

A judicial review to continue online council meetings after 7 May was rejected by the High Court on Thursday.

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