ANNUAL REPORT OF DISTRICT COUNCILLOR – DAVID HARRIES
Heyfords and Bugbrooke Ward – 2018-19
The South Northamptonshire Council (SNC) area continues to be ranked as one of
the best places to live in the country. Unemployment is one of the lowest in the
country although SNC runs a job club to help anyone get back into work.
Reorganisation of Local Government in Northamptonshire
The Government Inspector called in last year to assess Northamptonshire County
Council issued a damning report. The conclusion was that the County Council’s
failures were “so deep and ingrained that it is not possible to promote a recovery plan”. It was recommended that Northamptonshire should be divided into two unitary councils, West and North. In the meantime, Government Commissioners were brought in to oversee the County Council. In a process similar to North Korean elections, the Government then invited local councils to submit proposals on the future of local government in Northamptonshire, but imposed criteria that could only lead to one outcome: the abolition of all existing councils and the creation of two unitary councils – North and West (Daventry, South Northamptonshire, Northampton Borough and the ‘west’ part of the County Council). Having gone through this charade, councils in the ‘West’ are now actively working to create viable unitary councils. The Northamptonshire District and Parish elections have been postponed from 2019 to 2020. Subject to the vagaries of Parliament (who seem to be a little distracted at present) from April/May this year each unitary council will have a Shadow Council comprised of all the members of all the District and Borough councils and those from the County Council who represent the area. This mammoth organisation of over 150 councillors, including those who led the County Council to destruction, will appoint an executive to take vital decisions on setting up a new unitary authority in which they may play no part. Elections will take place in May 2020 and South Northamptonshire Council will disappear from April 2020. In the current chaotic situation of our Parliament, however, nothing is certain. Watch this space!
Separation from Cherwell
Sadly, the reorganisation of local government in Northamptonshire means that one
of the most successful examples of councils working in partnership will have to be disbanded. Work has begun to unpick the joint arrangements with Cherwell District Council that has produced significant efficiencies and saved millions of pounds.
Chief Executive/Senior Management
The separation from Cherwell and the appointment of Yvonne Rees as Chief
Executive of Cherwell and Oxfordshire County Council led to the need for yet
another restructuring of the senior management team. We were fortunate to appoint Richard Ellis, who has considerable experience at South Northamptonshire and beyond, as Chief Executive. In my view the next 12 months of uncertainty will not be comfortable.
The SNC part of the Council Tax bill was raised by 2.99% which is £5.55 a year for a Band D property, making the total £191.33 per year. The increase is in line with inflation. SNC has always been one of the best councils at collecting council tax, with 99% of all tax collected.
New Homes Bonus
Unlike many Councils SNC uses some of the New Homes Bonus it receives from
new developments to invest in the local community. Local organisations can bid for grants to help them achieve their objectives
Local Plan/Neighbourhood Plans
The Local Plan Part 2 was submitted to the Inspectorate in January. If any issues requiring attention are raised by the Inspector, they will again be presented for public consultation and should this be the case, it is likely that the Plan will become ‘statute’ during the winter of 2019, replacing the 1997 South Northamptonshire Local Plan.
Neighbourhood Plans have been adopted for two neighbouring parishes: Harpole and Kislingbury.
Although some expense is incurred when preparing such a Plan, it is an important
means of protecting our rural villages that should help to avoid speculative
development by promoting development that is locally acceptable.
South Northamptonshire Land Supply
National Planning Policy demands that every council has a bank of planning
permissions granted so that development can take place in that area. SNC has built up a good reserve of 11.2 years of land supply. (The Governments guide is 5 years plus 20%.) The anticipated Unitary Council, with SNC at 11.2 years and Daventry DC at 6+ years failing to compensate for Northampton BC’s derisory 2.3 years, will not meet the average figure required by the Government’s minimum requirement.
This will put greater emphasis on the need to protect our rural villages and should encourage the production of more Neighbourhood Plans.
West Northampton Development– No Secondary School
A joint development of 7,700 dwellings in the area from Kislingbury to Harlestone Heath includes a proportion on SNC’s land known as Norwood Farm. This development will include the usual primary schools (2), health centre, shops, green spaces, sports fields and the Sandy lane Relief Road. I continue to have grave concerns about the lack of a new secondary school to serve these houses and have been lobbying all those involved about it for some years. A failure to build a new school will put an intolerable burden on the existing schools in the area, including Campion, which simply do not have the capacity to cope with thousands more pupils.
SNC were the 7th best authority in England for recycling out of 345 areas and one place higher than last year. 60.5% of the waste collected is recycled thanks to our residents taking care to make sure the right things go in the right bins – this is good for the environment and keeps costs down.
As an Independent I was pleased to accept the offer to be chairman of the Audit
Committee. It was a demonstration of the Administration’s confidence that their
finances are sufficiently robust to withstand independent scrutiny. And they are! As a member of the Community Funding Panel, I continue to pick up useful information about how to prepare a successful application for grants; and I have been able to support and assist local applications. The Scrutiny Committee of which I am also a member, provides further opportunities to examine the workings of the council in detail. The Moat Lane Project Board continues to meet regularly and produces some interesting issues regarding the regeneration of this part of Towcester.
During the year I have managed to help local people get much-needed housing and provided advice on various planning issues. It is particularly pleasing to help meet some genuine individual housing needs.
Once again, I have managed to maintain an almost 100% attendance record for council and relevant committee meetings.
For further useful information about Nether Heyford Parish Council and full contact details for the clerk and the councillors please visit our Nether Heyford Parish Council page.