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We are all the poorer because of Government austerity measures that have seen billions taken out of Local Government funding. The Local Government Association tells us that the funding gap is now £8 billion. This is the money councils need to provide good childrens services, adult care, pothole free roads. We pay our taxes and we need our services. Tory Governments have always undervalued Local Government but this feels vengeful as if they want our councils to fail. Its all part of their campaign to shrink the state. Shrink the state. Shrink services. Leave our children and older frail people vulnerable.

This has been compounded in Northamptonshire by seriously flawed financial management. We had the highest number of overpaid consultants-23 earning over £100,000 a year. We had and have, the lowest Council tax in the country. A topsy-turvy world where the rich get richer and the poor poorer. Inequalities have increased across the county, shown in differential life expectancy rates from Brackley to Corby.

In the county we have 47,000 children living in poverty. We have 1093 children in care. We are struggling to allocate adult social care cases because of a shortage of social workers. We are struggling to make social care assessments in a timely fashion.  Staff are under the most enormous pressure. Morale is low. Many are being driven towards the exit door. It is a national disgrace.

The county has to save between £60m -£70 million between now and April 6th next year. This is going to severely impact on our communities. And yet. And yet. The very people who have created this disaster are still in power, nationally and locally.

The reorganisation of local government will see the abolition of the 8 authorities in the county. They will be replaced by two unitary authorities if the Government gets its way. But the debt will remain. The funding gap will remain. The demographics of the unitaries proposed means the Tories are likely to still be in power. Everything will change and nothing will change.

The fall out of austerity and mismanagement

We are all the poorer because of Government austerity measures that have seen billions taken out of Local Government funding. The Local Government Association tells us that the funding gap...

The Value of Our Community Libraries and Keeping Them Open

Thank you Mr Mayor.

As all of you sitting in this chamber are fully aware of the impending closure of many of our local Libraries and the need to protect and keep them open to serve our local wards and communities for future use.

My local Library is ‘Abington Library’ it has been serving my community for 79 years and still continues to be a cornerstone and shinning beacon for many local families.

Even though opening days have now been reduced to 3 days a week because of county council cutbacks –the loyal dedicated hardworking staff and volunteers provide the following activities –

  • Advice for young families
  • Homework Club
  • Tutoring of children who are excluded from school
  • Free wi-fi to study
  • printing facilities for all to use.
  • Social services family contact and counselling meetings use the library because it is a place of safety
  • Nursing homes visit with their residents                                                                                                                     These are just some of the many service our library provide.

The future of all 21 libraries is still uncertain ‘The Friends of Abington Library ‘have now finalised the use of a near by Community centre for 2 mornings a week for a trail period to set up an independent book-swap Library service which will act as an extension to the current library service on the days that it is currently closed 

If Abington Library and other local libraries disappear what then happens next? Remaining accessible libraries become a bus journey away (that’s if the bus services haven’t been reduced in the area!) they may be a 20 minute car journey away, would residents get parked close enough to where they need to be, would they have to pay to park?

Don’t forget many of the services that our now closed ‘Sure Start’ and ‘Children’s Centres’ provided -went into local libraries –what happens if and when local libraries close –where do these services go to then ?, will they just disappear as another cutback to local services?

As a former longstanding school governor of Headlands Primary school I saw the amazing impact our ‘Sure Start ‘centre had locally –parents of all ages would come to the centre to use all its facilities and sometimes getting that advice that would bring reassurance that new parents always need in those early years.

Indeed we even had a birth in the centre which brought great joy to the school and all our parents.

I asked ‘Sue’ one of the volunteers at Abington Library and on the friend’s committee to highlight how it supports the local community                                                                                                                                                                                              ‘Libraries are for the young, the old and the in between, the disabled and the vulnerable –for everyone’

‘A comfortable and safe place to meet friends, find companionship and support - plus help in dealing with the outside world’

‘I have a friend who visits the library regularly who has a guide dog, she has given a talk and demo to children about being sight impaired’

‘We encourage people where English is not their first language to join us for tea and coffee and have been told it is beneficial to hear English spoken in a social context, also practicing conversation without feeling embarrassed’

In closing I would like to invite all councillors here to the ‘Friends of Abington Library’ garden fete on Saturday 14th July between 10am and 12, I look forward to seeing some of you there supporting the community library.

Save our Libraries-Speech to Full council

The Value of Our Community Libraries and Keeping Them Open Thank you Mr Mayor. As all of you sitting in this chamber are fully aware of the impending closure of...

Crime and the Fear of Crime

There is an often used response to any questions about the rise of criminal activity that' the fear of crime is much greater than the actual reality of crime itself.'

Whether this is the case or not the fear of crime is keeping our residents in their homes at night, preventing parents taking their children to parks and recreation spaces, and stopping the residents of our town enjoying all the amenities our town has to offer.

This reluctance to enjoy all our town has to offer ranges from residents not going out at night and on dark winter evenings, parents avoiding parks and open spaces due to alcohol and drug use in full view, perpetrators ignoring the PSPO due to lack of information and enforcement, offensive graffiti, ASB in the town centre and shopping areas to real fear of violence and crime.

When asked for the crime figures to be included in the Community Safety and Community Engagement report to Full Council, Councillor King said, " find them yourself."

I did just that and the findings are alarming.

This is just one month's figures for Northampton.

Overall crime figures have dropped from May 2106.This may well be due to the change of reporting.

But, Violent Sexual offences have risen from 2016 -606, 2017- 704, 2018 -730 .

And alarmingly Drug Crimes  - 2016 - 58, 2017 - 43, 2018 - 65

Possession of weapons - 2016 - 14, 2017 - 23, 2018 - 30

From these figures the worrying escalation of crime in the town is around violent sexual offences, drugs and possession of weapons.

The three non domestic murders recently are also a break in pattern which should raise alarm bells. Two of these were around drugs and gang related incidents and involved stabbings.

We have evidence of an alarming increase in gang and knife crime nationwide and now in our town. The reasons for this are many and complex. Cuts in funding and reduced police presence are the visible and easily indentified reasons.

According to a recent report  'POVERTY, unemployment and family breakdown are pushing a significant group of young people beyond the fringes of society and into a world of 'inertia, cynicism and crime'.

Gangs are being run like a business and rivalry between gangs often leads to innocent bystanders being victims of violence. The levels of violence are increasing. Indicators of this is the recovery of firearms. In a 6 month period in Northamptonshire 25 guns were recovered. Mostly shotguns but also hand guns, which are far more rare. 

The movement of London gangs along County Lines  with drug dealing controlled from main cities, Birmingham, Leeds, Cardiff is moving into our town with local police working with the Met. and sharing information across borders.

The associated criminal activity around cuckooing, sexual exploitation, human trafficking,  modern slavery and the exploitation of vulnerable people of all ages with drugs, alcohol and mental health issues is growing in our town. Last month there were 40 cases of cuckooing in Northampton alone.

The night time economy has received much attention over the past few years. This is an issue due to the levels of alcohol and drug misuse and other negative behaviour. The tragic case of India Chipchase in January 2016 prompted the 'Nights out in Northampton' campaign and the recent Purple Flag award, for which the CSP team should be congratulated. But the ASB and violence around the night time economy had been with us for over 30 years. It should not take this tragic murder to prompt a reaction  from our CST.

I am concerned that in a similar way the response to the present and real threats to the safety of our communities will be too little and too late.

The Northampton Community Safety Plan aims to-

 'Deliver a safe, confident Northampton by working together to improve the quality of life for local people'.

It is a sound policy addressing all the priorities of such a plan. It sets out all the things we would hope to achieve for our town with the one exception of a real policy on Organised Crime. It highlights the problem but beyond saying that 'partners are working together'  - that's it.

Looking deeper in to the Customer and Communities Service PlanThe Corporate Plan Priority on Community Safety and Engagement section the outcomes have failed to deliver due to partners failing to deliver, lack of engagement from community and partners, the network fails to engage with the team and council, limited Police resource to support the ASB unit.

These are all failures to deliver around priorities for Community Safety. The objectives are laudable but objectives need to be delivered.

This is hugely worrying. If we are failing to achieve these objectives the people of our town are being let down and we are open to exploitation by criminal gangs who see a weakness which they will exploit.

I would urge the Community Safety Partnership to work with the PCC to bid for funding  from the Home Office's £11 million Early Intervention Youth Fund for youth and community groups who support early intervention and prevention activity in children and young people. We need to build strong and resilient communities.

The Association of Town and City Management who awarded the Purple Flag have a Violence and Vulnerability Unit which is looking at the changing patterns of crime. We must learn from work done in other parts of the country to reassure our residents that this is an issue which is being taken seriously.

We need to encourage partners to take action to reduce the opportunities for crime to take place, including raising awareness of the key issues and how best to respond and build positive relationships. This will include young people affected by violence.

Everybody wants to live in a place where they feel safe. Crime and the fear of crime are still big concerns for a lot for people and it is not something we should take lightly.

Crime and the Fear of Crime

Crime and the Fear of Crime There is an often used response to any questions about the rise of criminal activity that' the fear of crime is much greater than...

The Labour Group presented opposition business to the county on June 21 calling for more and better policing and a refresh of our community safety partnerships and strategy. The motion was voted down by the Tories. This is my speech.

Chair,

I have a vision for the town of Northampton and the county of Northamptonshire.  That these are places that feel loved, that feel welcoming, and above all, that feel safe.  Above all-that feels safe places to bring up our children. That feels safe to women going home late at night from shift work. That feels safe for young men, out on the town with their mates.

But what has happened?

We have a vastly depleted police force and growing crime. I was in Spring Boroughs the other day and did a walkabout with my local cop. He turned me round to look back at where we had come from and said that he knew of three drugs dens within my line of vision that he could do nothing about because of a lack of resources. In Northampton, we have had three non-domestic murders of young men since February. This is intolerable. In St George’s County division we know there has been an increase in sex related crimes, in modern slavery, vehicle theft, anti-social behaviour and drug related crimes.  Yet when residents phone through to 101 they are kept waiting for so long to talk to anyone they give up. As a consequence many crimes are going unreported. We know that the police prioritise their resources depending on reported crime. If communities feel so disillusioned they stop reporting it means that already vulnerable communities are becoming ever more vulnerable.

We know cybercrime is on the rise and office based police deal with that. But we still need visible policing. We need more police on the street. We need more integrated partnership working and we need communities that trust the police,  that report suspicious activity, that report crimes.

Our approach to Community Safety partnerships needs a refresh. We are living in difficult times. Crime is changing and in some instances getting more violent. Recent Asian gold thefts have been marked by the violence of the gangs involved. These are brazen gangs who enter homes in daylight, where there are women and children, who threaten and commit  violence. As individuals become more vulnerable, as communities become more vulnerable, criminal gangs move in. And so we are seeing cuckooing and County Lines. I have been told that last month there were 40 cases of cuckooing across Northampton alone. From the experience of cities like Sheffield we know that where children are vulnerable because they have  been excluded from school they are becoming prey to gangs who use them as drug runners.

We have then a scenario where because of service cuts communities are losing their resilience. Where wages are being frozen and where jobs are casualised families are finding it hard to make ends meet. Where children are disaffected because they cannot cope with pressure from school and social pressures they are becoming prey to organised criminals.

There use to be 57 Police officers in the town centre. There are now 50.5 for the whole town.

The question we need to ask is, as a County, what is our responsibility in this situation? We need an outcome based approach. Is the Community Safety Partnership effective? How do we know? What else can it be doing? Where is best practice in this Country and what can we learn from it?

I beg to move.

Community Safety Partnerships- are they working?

The Labour Group presented opposition business to the county on June 21 calling for more and better policing and a refresh of our community safety partnerships and strategy. The motion...

Press Release June 4th

This evening Northampton Borough Council will seek to reverse Borough policy on Unitary status for Northampton.

In January 2017 a cross party motion committed the Borough to campaigning for a Unitary Northampton. This follows the 828 years of history since we received the Royal Charter, most of which time, Northampton has been self-governing.

Cllr. Danielle Stone, (Labour, Castle), says,  “The Government is abolishing the failed, Conservative, County Council and is trying to force Northampton to become part of West Northamptonshire along with South Northamptonshire and Daventry.

This means that at one stroke of the pen they get rid of two failed Conservative Authorities, The County Council and the Borough Council!

We shouldn’t let this happen to Northampton. We are a large and growing town. We are perfectly capable of governing ourselves. The failed Tory administration at the Borough should, in my view, be replaced with a Labour administration at local elections next year.

What the Government is planning to do is reward Tory failure by creating a new authority with a bias towards the Torys. They are allowing the architects of the failure at both authorities to stay in place and to go for election for West Northants. This is utterly disgraceful.

We need a fresh start for Northampton. We should be self-governing and there should be local elections in 2019”.

Don't scrap Northampton

Press Release June 4th This evening Northampton Borough Council will seek to reverse Borough policy on Unitary status for Northampton. In January 2017 a cross party motion committed the Borough...

Childhood obesity is a national crisis. It is a complex issue that needs a complex response. Local authorities can contribute to this by changing their policy framework to prevent fast food outlets opening near schools. This is what Councils up and down the country are doing.

The Labour group are calling on Northampton Council to follow the example of other authorities to have a policy that restricts fast food outlets within a 400-metre radius of schools. In addition, the motion going to the council asks the Borough to consider setting up healthy food awards for local retailers.

Cllr. Vicky Culbard, (Labour, Delapre and Briar Hill) says, “Childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions. All of us need to take responsibility and do what we can to create a healthier environment for all our children. Of course, we need a TV watershed so that children are not bombarded with adverts for junk food. Of course, we need a sugar tax. Of course, we need parents, communities and schools to support healthy diets.

What we can do at the council is to stop allowing fast food, junk food outlets, to operate near schools. Additionally, we can look at having healthy food awards for responsible retailers and restaurants to encourage them”.

Cllr. Janice Duffy (Labour, Talavera), says, “Childhood obesity affects the quality of life of the children who are affected. It also has an adverse effect on their life chances. We must do all we can to support a healthy lifestyle for all our children.

The council can change planning policy and that is what we must do!”.

For further information please contact Labour Office 07500930903

Childhood Obesity

Childhood obesity is a national crisis. It is a complex issue that needs a complex response. Local authorities can contribute to this by changing their policy framework to prevent fast...

A Home for all

I have a vision for Northampton -  Homes for All. A Home for everyone                                                                                      I want to talk about that but first I want like to thank NPH, and officers for all their hard work, for engaging with tenants and meeting the needs of our tenants. They have come a long way in 3yrs.

Northampton has become the most vibrant and diverse town in the county.  It is a university town with history.    In our town we need affordable homes, fit for purpose, using nothing but the safest materials, as we don’t have a repeat of Grenfell.  

But what do we see when we walk around the town, litter, boarded up homes, empty homes and the homeless on our streets. We know there are many other “hidden homeless”, sofa surfing.

Homelessness, has become a huge problem for this town.  We have an increasing housing crisis.  Where ever you look, in doorways, shop fronts, tents in park, in vehicles, squatting, homeless people are ending up there.   People who are homeless are often unable to acquire and maintain regular safe, secure adequate housing.  Landlord are increasing rents, (rooms are being rented out for £450 a month!), people experience job loss, family breakdown, we have an increasing population,  and no matter how many times we go out and do the count, there will be more that will turn up the next time. No-one choses to become homeless. We need more houses and we need a change in policy.  

Another problem we have is overcrowding. Homes lacking storage, privacy, space for children to play and do their homework has a knock effect on their education and development. Allowing social overcrowding is the council’s way of penalizing people who live in Council housing.  A home is not just a physical space it provides roots, identity, security and sense of belonging, so what is the solution? We need a Northampton standard that does not include using living rooms as a bedroom.  

The Landlords Forum is well attended.  However, we need to reach out and challenge those landlords who exploit and profit from tenants, which makes me very angry.  When rents go up families struggle to pay and they turn to the Council for housing.   We have a generation of young people who will struggle to afford a mortgage or to get onto the property ladder.  We have children without a stable home because they are moving around. They are seriously disadvantaged. Invest what you want, but without more homes, and decent homes, the problem will continue.

We currently have just over 3,000 people on the housing register, people living in temporary accommodation including children that’s shocking.  So what is going wrong? I can tell what’s going wrong?    We are not building enough affordable homes, family homes with space to help children develop and grow, because developers don’t want to build affordable homes. Why are we letting them get away with building only 10% or 15% instead of building 35%? We need to hold our ground and not allow that.  

We need disabled people to be fairly assessed and improvements made so they may live independently in their own homes.           We should not be underspending our DFG funds.

We should be campaigning for Government action- We need to stop selling our stock on the RTB.  We need to abolish bedroom tax, and put a cap on rent.  

 

Councils should stop paying agents and landlords huge sums of money for temporary housing and build more homes.  A good example is Spring Boroughs.  I recently took a stroll round the new housing estate and I was so happy to hear child’s laughter, all those houses made into a home, a community hub that brings people together not segregate them.  

We need to find ways of delivering housing services, and support services that will improve the lives of the most disadvantaged. When are we going to adopt HomeFirst policy?   

We are the decision makers in this chamber, we can make a difference and put it right otherwise we will leave a legacy failing the people of this town.

We need infrastructure and one Unitary council putting the people of this town first for a change and build Homes For All.

Case Study A family with disabled child, needing assistance. The child wants a room of his own to help him have his own space and privacy, and help him overcome his over dependence on his mother.  Instead he was offered adaptations and counseling. The assessment wasn’t thorough and lacked clarity.   And yet the council has unspent DFG money and deprives this child of his right to space and privacy.

In Conclusion

  • We need more houses and we need a change in policy.
  • We need a Northampton standard that does not include using living rooms as a bedroom.
  • We need to hold our ground and ensure developers build 35% affordable homes.
  • We should not have an underspend on our DFG funds.
  • We should be campaigning for Government action- remove the right to buy, abolish the bedroom tax, and put a cap on rent.
  • Adopt a HomeFirst policy

A Vision for Housing

A Home for all I have a vision for Northampton -  Homes for All. A Home for everyone                                                                                      I want to talk about that but first I want like to...

The Borough faces a two year period of great uncertainty. We will be subject to an imposed Local Government reorganisation with central government and the County Tory MPs calling the shots. This is what has happened so far:

1974     

The Conservative Government created a two tier system of Local Government and imposed a County Council for Northamptonshire. Prior to this Northampton was a County Borough (i.e. a Unitary Authority) and ran its own services including social care and schools. There was a fight back against this over the years, but it was not supported, even by County Labour Councillors

2017

January               

Motion calling for a Unitary Northampton taken to Borough Council by Labour and amended by the Tory administration was passed with cross party support.

February             

Inspector sent in to the County

March 15th         

Inspector Reports the County is bankrupt and guilty of financial mismanagement.

March 27th          

Secretary of State statement to abolish the county, reorganise Local government in Northamptonshire, send in commissioners for Governance and for Finance.

April                     

Letter signed by leaders of all the Council parties to Secretary of State calling for a Unitary Northampton.

May 3                 

Special Council Meeting called by all the political parties with a joint motion calling for an information and awareness campaign to engage all residents in support of a unitary Northampton.

May                      

Meeting with Civil Service. Districts and Boroughs were told the Government:-

Wants One Proposal for reorganisation

Will not agree to changed boundaries

Insists that reorganisation would be on the basis of no less than 300,000 head of population

Will not provide more money

Has ruled the County debt will be carried by the reconfigured authorities

All the Districts and Boroughs agreed one, joint proposal to government with two unitaries- West Northants and North Northants. PWC commissioned to write proposal. To be consulted on using focus groups by deadline date of end of August.

May 9th                

County Labour Leaders and PPCs meet Secretary of State for communities. Andrew Gwynne MP acknowledged Northampton’s position but commented he thought Government is unlikely to budge.

May 14th             

Tory administration argued against and voted against its own motion. Labour puts up a vigorous and well-argued case for Unitary Northampton. Vote was 18/22 against.

June 4th              

Tory administration to bring a paper to Council reversing Borough policy on Unitary for Northampton.The CLP has posted a petition. Please use the link here. https://www.change.org/p/fight-for-northampton-we- need-our –own-council

In the meantime the Sixfields saga rumbles on with no conclusion.  The budget for 2016/17 has not yet been signed off. Tory incompetence piled on Tory incompetence.                                                  

Unitary- where we are now

The Borough faces a two year period of great uncertainty. We will be subject to an imposed Local Government reorganisation with central government and the County Tory MPs calling the...

My speech to the Special Council meeting May 14th   

I went shopping on Saturday at Waitrose and while I was there I asked the manager how many people he would expect through door over a usual weekend. He reckoned around 2000 people would come into the shop during that time.

So this is the number of people you and I see usually when we shop. If half that number of people changed their vote to Labour we will no longer have two conservative MPs in Northampton at the next general election.

These MPs, together with the imploded Tory-run County Council which has devastated the services paid for by tens of thousands of tax payers, have let Northampton down. Bankrupt both financially and in many other ways, our MPs have failed to stand up for a Unitary Northampton which is the only fair solution of our crumbling local government. They have failed to defend a Northampton Unitary and have sought to protect their political heartland by standing back and allowing the Secretary of State for Local Government to make far reaching and life changing decisions affecting these tens of thousands of tax paying resident without proper consultation - so far.

So, Labour will challenge this and right now I am putting the Tories under notice.

Labour will show the residents of Northampton borough that their views are important and which, so far, have not been taken into account by Central Government; that their MPs do to appear to have challenged Central Government’s decisions. Labour will campaign to raise awareness about this democratic deficit. Labour will be out on the streets, door knocking, meeting voters at residents meetings, taking this lack of democracy to the electorate so that if and when there consultations in the coming months, voters will understand their choices and know what to do to bring about the changes they want to seen in the town we all love.

Labour for Northampton

My speech to the Special Council meeting May 14th    I went shopping on Saturday at Waitrose and while I was there I asked the manager how many people he would...

I am proud that Labour has championed a Unitary Northampton ever since 1974 and that we brought a motion to council in January 2017 proposing a Unitary Northampton as Borough policy.

The motion was strengthened by the administration and passed with cross party support.

The motion before us seeks to build on that and is asking for a number of actions to be urgently put in place. The need for urgency is because the government is intending to abolish the county, abolish the borough and create a new authority for West Northamptonshire. This proposal puts our wonderful historic and growing town in with South Northants and Daventry. What kind of a shelf life do you suppose this will have? One term? Two terms? It is unlikely to succeed. There is no geographical, cultural, social, economic or political reason for it.

The urgency is because the people of the town do not know what is being proposed.

 It is urgent because the people of the town have not been consulted and have not given a mandate.

It is urgent because we have 2 ½ MPS who have failed to fight for Northampton. Who have treated the county and councillors from their own party with contempt.  Who have arrogantly presumed to find a solution to issues with reorganisation without any consideration of what is in the best interests of Northampton.

These are the MPs that belong to a government that is starving the county of funding. That are presiding over a situation where we have growing child poverty, an acute crisis in adult social care, escalating crime figures and a growing sense in our communities of alienation from politics and civic life.

The prospect of a Unitary Northampton is an exciting one. It puts the people of the town, and their elected representatives in the driving seat. At last. No more paternalism from Big Brother county council. We have everything we need in this town to become a successful Unitary town. We have population growth bringing more jobs, more housing, more spending power. We have a wonderfully diverse community that can offer existing employers and incoming employers the skills, knowledge and expertise to trade in the global economy. We have rich and developing cultural industries which together with our cultural heritage will put us on map as a tourist destination. We are a university town, we have  a major  railway hub, good communications , and an enterprise zone.

Diluting our position by setting us within a rural context is not going to work for Northampton and isn’t wanted by South Northants or Daventry. They will be, how can I put this? - Reluctant bedfellows.

Our role as the Borough Council is stand up to government. To continue the proud dissenting tradition of the town, to fight for Northampton and its people.

Please support the motion calling for an awareness campaign so that our citizens understand all the issues, that seeks support from all sectors for a Unitary Northampton,  that invites the secretary of state and our MPs to engage with us.

Special Council Meeting- fighting for Northampton

I am proud that Labour has championed a Unitary Northampton ever since 1974 and that we brought a motion to council in January 2017 proposing a Unitary Northampton as Borough...

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