On Friday, I met with the Leader of Northamptonshire County Council, Cllr Matt Golby, to discuss a number of priorities for residents in South Northamptonshire.
At the top of the agenda was the Farthinghoe Bypass. I made Cllr Golby aware of the deep concerns from residents in and around the village that the promised bid for funding through the Major Road Network fund hadn’t been forthcoming; whilst I recognised the point that there were other schemes that were more advanced in terms of detailed design work, it was still disappointing that we had put such a substantial amount of effort into securing the agreement for it not to have been followed through. Cllr Golby gave his commitment that the County Council would do all that it could to agree a way forward, and agreed to work on a bid for funding through the Department for Transport’s Pinch Point Fund instead. I am having a further meeting on Thursday with Councillors and Highways officials from the County Council, as well as representatives from the South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP) and England’s Economic Heartland Strategic Alliance to agree our next steps.
We discussed HS2, particularly the effect of communities along the line of route in South Northants. Cllr Golby welcomed my call, on behalf of residents, for HS2 Ltd to pause all enabling construction works pending the outcome of the Oakervee Review, and will be discussing with his colleagues what further steps NCC can take to support this.
I raised the Towcester Relief Road, and the ongoing discussions between Persimmon and NCC’s Speed Review Panel. I made clear that the speed team need to recognise the urgency of the road, and we must secure an agreement as soon as possible on that speed limit so that works can keep moving forward. I also raised the issue of ensuring the road is built to the correct depth to allow for a future realignment of the A5 away from the town centre, and a future dualling of the road given that South Northamptonshire District Council has secured a “ransom strip” of land along the alignment of the road to provide for this in due course. I have my next meeting with Persimmon and the County Council on the Towcester Relief Road in early October, and will be reporting back on progress then.
We also spoke about the triple good news for the area in the form of the increase in per pupil funding rates for Northamptonshire primary and secondary schools, the positive outcomes from the Chancellor’s recent Spending Round for the County, as well as the news that morning that Northampton had been granted up to £25m as part of the new Towns Fund.
At the end of the meeting with Matt, we were joined by Hilary Chipping, the Chief Executive of SEMLEP, where I again had the opportunity to press the importance of the Farthinghoe Bypass. Hilary set out what SEMLEP is doing to support and promote the region’s economic growth, as well as preparations for Brexit which are well developed.
Following this meeting, I sat down with Cllr Fiona Baker, the lead councillor for Children’s Services, and the new Director for Children’s Services Sally Hodges, to discuss the ongoing situation in the county. Needless to say, Children’s Services in Northamptonshire has been in substantial difficulty for many years, and it is absolutely vital that the County Council gets a grip on this now. We had a wide-ranging discussion, and I have said that I am keen to do anything I can to support Fiona and Sally in their efforts to turn the problem around. Following Ofsted’s recent report that Children’s Services are inadequate, they will be returning in January for a re-inspection, and then again in March.
As ever, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me if you have any comments on the above, or if I can help on any other matter.