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:
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
Motion calling for a Unitary Northampton taken to Borough Council by Labour and amended by the Tory administration was passed with cross party support.
Inspector sent in to the County
Inspector Reports the County is bankrupt and guilty of financial mismanagement.
Secretary of State statement to abolish the county, reorganise Local government in Northamptonshire, send in commissioners for Governance and for Finance.
Letter signed by leaders of all the Council parties to Secretary of State calling for a Unitary Northampton.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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...
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.
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...
Message from the Leader of the Labour Group April 2018
As expected the government inspectors report into the Conservative County Council has identified serious weaknesses in the financial controls at the county. The inspector is calling for the abolition of the county and is suggesting a two unitary solution.
This would put Northampton with South Northants and Daventry.
This would not be good for the people in Northampton.
It would help if all the trade unions and local organisations wrote into me and to the leader of the council, Jonathan Nunn, calling for a Unitary Northampton with fairer funding from the government. Please also consider writing to the press and radio and the three MPs.
Twitter: @Npton Labour Group
Message from the Leader of the Labour Group April 2018As expected the government inspectors report into the Conservative County Council has identified serious weaknesses in the financial controls at the...
Abolition of the County Council
Unitary for Northampton
There is cross party support in Northampton among the Borough Councillors for a Unitary Northampton. We believe we are a big enough authority to govern our own affairs and run all our own services. We do not need a failed authority, like the county council, and failed Councillors like Cllr. Andy Mercer, telling us who should control us! The two-unitary solution to a dissolved County is one dreamt up in Westminster by out of touch Conservative MPs. It would mean Northampton going in with South Northants and Daventry. It makes no sense at all. We have a proud 828-year history. We are the largest town in the UK. We must not allow anyone to undermine that. Having some of our services provided by the county never did work for the people of Northampton.
We always had that sense of big brother looking down us, who always thought they knew best.
We need to be given the recognition we deserve of a geographical area and a local authority that can look after its own citizens. We do not want to be ruled by South Northants and I am pretty sure they don’t want us either.
Cllr. Mercer on radio Northampton offered a light touch consultation for the people of the county. This is really not good enough. The decision about reorganising the Districts and Boroughs into Unitaries is an important one that will have long lasting impacts. Consultation must be far reaching and serious. The public needs to have a say and to be heard. I urge every Northamptonian who wants Northampton to be self- governing to write to the leader of our council, Jonathan Nunn, to me as leader of the opposition and to our MPs.
Leader of the labour Opposition Northampton Borough Council.
Abolition of the County Council Unitary for Northampton There is cross party support in Northampton among the Borough Councillors for a Unitary Northampton. We believe we are a big enough...
Labour Group Northampton Borough Council
To The Right Honourable Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government
Regarding Northamptonshire County Council
We have listened to your response to the Best Value Government Inspection report into the crisis at NCC in the Commons today.
We believe that lack of Government funding has exacerbated the poor and inept management of NCC. We do understand that in addition to under funding and unfair funding there has also been financial mismanagement.
We do agree that a new way forward is key.
Two options for re-organisation are being suggested- a single unitary for the whole county or two unitaries, North Northamptonshire and West Northamptonshire. However, there is a third option with a unitary authority for Northampton itself. We believe that this would be of the most benefit to Northampton and the county. It would need to be a unitary Northampton with slightly extended boundaries.
You have asked for broad consultation. Please be aware, the Northampton labour party covers 2.5 of the constituencies with a large and fast growing membership.
Northampton Labour constituency party has been consulted about the way forward and has overwhelmingly agreed to a Unitary Northampton.
We are putting out a call to local people and local organisations to tell us what they think and we will be happy to pass that information on to you.
Cllr Danielle Stone
Labour Group Leader
Northampton Borough Council
Labour Group Northampton Borough Council To The Right Honourable Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Regarding Northamptonshire County Council 27/03/2018 Dear Sir, We have listened to your...
Popular and well know local Labour Councillor Naz Choudary will be the next deputy mayor.
Making the announcement Danielle Stone, Leader of the labour group says,
“I am delighted that Cllr. Choudary has agreed to be our next deputy mayor. He will bring the energy of youth to the role together with his passion for the work local groups do. I know that he will also be a great fund raiser for whatever his chosen charity as Mayor will be. He will be able to bring all the political groups together to support him and a wide range of local projects. I am very much looking forward to seeing him in his role as deputy mayor and then as our first citizen.”
Popular and well know local Labour Councillor Naz Choudary will be the next deputy mayor. Making the announcement Danielle Stone, Leader of the labour group says, “I am delighted that...
I am here to celebrate GRACE DARE – this was the name Margaret Bondfield used in 1896 when she went under-cover to investigate the conditions of life of shop workers. Most shop-workers of the period lived in hostels provided by their employers, and despite Victorian prudery it is clear that the exploitation they experienced was not only economic. They were fed adulterated and sub standard food, fined for any minor breach of rules – but they were also subjected to the kind of treatment which has recently gone public in Hollywood. In other words, to keep your job, you had to put up with sexual harassment and worse. GRACE (Margaret) was not some privileged professional, under cover for a few weeks. She was a shop worker – a country girl come up to London from Somerset. But her bravery in putting herself and her livelihood at risk won respect. Her Union, the Shop Assistants Union, promoted her to being its assistant secretary when she was only 25 years old. She became a sought after figure – was made chairman of the first all women’s trade union federation, and she also chaired the National Adult suffrage society.
Unlike the suffragettes, Margaret did not engage in direct action- nor did she seek the vote only for those women who could qualify by virtue of property ownership or University education. She was a genuine democrat – in a long line from the Levellers of Cromwell’s time through to the Chartists – she believed that the vote belonged to every adult, whether male or female. At the time when she was arguing that case, only half of all men in the UK had a vote. The changes the suffragettes were seeking, would have left the majority of women in the same un-enfranchised position.
When first Grace (Margaret) came to Northampton in 1915, women’s suffrage was taking a back seat to the needs of War. Price inflation was punishing working class families hard and women working outside the home and still trying to feed their family had it hardest of all. Margaret spoke on the Market Square – arguing for rationing so that basic needs could be met. Yet it came as a surprise to many that she was selected to fight one of two Northampton seats in a by election in 1920. The National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives, representing the majority employed group in the town, was forwarding Labour candidates in both Northamptonshire and Leicestershire and it was assumed that they would have first pick in Northampton.
It was the Northampton Independent Labour Party (the Momentum of its day) which supported Margaret (known by then as “our Maggie”) for the seat.
It took a couple of tries, but she made it into the minority Labour Government of 1924, to become the first woman ever to be a British Government minister (as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour). She was the first working class woman to serve in Government in Britain. By 1926 she had moved on from Northampton a safer seat and by 1929 had become the first Woman Cabinet Minister in a British Government.
Margaret Bondfield had a short lived parliamentary career, disappointing herself and many of those who supported her. The austerity recipes adopted by Ramsey MacDonald and then his desertion of Labour for a Coalition with the Conservatives, disappointed the hopes of working people for change and took their toll on Margaret ‘s optimism but not her loyalty. Margaret remained loyal to her Labour values and socialist vision. She campaigned on the door step in 1945 and lived to see the first majority Labour Government. It was a great day for Grace Dare, the Somerset country girl who spoke up for her fellow workers. She continued to campaign and to advocate for working class women and their families until her death in 1953.
Northampton can be proud of its willingness to choose Grace Dare to represent us and we should make sure that “our Maggie” is a role model for our town’s children: the Somerset girl who stood up for worker’s rights, the activist who championed working women, the democrat who paved the way for women in parliament.
Dr Marie Dickie. OBE
I am here to celebrate GRACE DARE – this was the name Margaret Bondfield used in 1896 when she went under-cover to investigate the conditions of life of shop...
County in melt down Feb 2018.
It was odd seeing new and young conservative Councillors in shock at the financial meltdown at the county. Their distress was real. They were elected to represent their constituents and get the best possible services for them and here they were being required to vote for a budget that is cutting £40m of services. Three voted against and one abstained.
How odd they haven’t identified the Conservative government as the architect of the problems in Northamptonshire. The Government has incrementally withdrawn the Rate Support Grant from Local Authorities and capped Council Tax. The NHS is underfunded. Adult Social Care is underfunded. Children's Services are underfunded. The latest comment on Children's Services from Government was that with good leadership childrens services will be fine. This is so not true. All our services need investment and the difficulties we face in Northamptonshire are being replicated across the country. Demand is soaring. Resources are diminishing. Central Government clearly does not value local government. The outcome is services that cannot cope with demand and children becoming less and less safe. Vulnerable adults becoming less and less safe. This is ideologically driven. The only real alternative is an early election and the return of a Labour Government.
County in melt down Feb 2018. It was odd seeing new and young conservative Councillors in shock at the financial meltdown at the county. Their distress was real. They were...
Labour Group Budget Statement Feb 26th 2018
This year our group are not presenting an alternative budget. We are presenting a statement which seeks to do three things.
- A commentary on the budget before us.
- An alternative view of how we should be addressing the finances of this authority.
- A vision of how things can be done differently.
The commentary is our view on the deliverability and the impact of the budget you propose to set. The other offers up alternatives for you to consider, if not now, then in the future.
Commentary on the budget
We are living in tough times with a government seeking to shrink the local state, cap local government resources, and prevent us from exercising much income generation power. Yet we are seeing our town grow faster than any other in the UK, with an increasingly elderly population, a hugely increasing demand, for housing and other services.
We are witnessing a melt down at the County. A combination of Government austerity measures and financial mismanagement has brought the county to its knees. We need to learn lessons from what has happened there.
There are indications that this authority is going down the same path as the county. Our accounts have still not been signed off by the external auditors. We were given an adverse judgement for Value for Money last year. We still have the missing millions to pay back. We still have too many interims, too many vacancies where we need expertise and commitment, we are using reserves to balance the budget.
We agree with the proposed rate of Council Tax increase. Residents of the town are telling us they would rather pay more for essential services but the deal is that the rate of increase has to be proportionate and the services excellent.
The parking proposal will raise revenue, increase pollution and does not guarantee footfall.
More needs to be done to provide an integrated transport service.
At a time of growth and increased demand our budget is shrinking. There is too little provision in the budget for growth in income, income generation. This is not a sustainable position.The new contract for Environmental Services , contracted to a private provider over ten years, is eye wateringly expensive. In year one this is almost 43% of our total revenue budget. The percentage is set to rise as inflation rises. This is not a sustainable position.
The budget is being balanced by using a forecast reduction in staffing of £350,000. £320,000 is an assumption of savings made through service redesign. Our new CEO may have other ideas. He may understand that in a situation of growth and increasing demand we need more not less staff. We need permanent not interim staff. We need properly paid qualified staff, not consultants on inflated daily rates. This budget proposal is high risk and may not be deliverable.
£30,000 is a cut to the Guildhall staff under the heading of events. The Guildhall is our most treasured asset. We should be making money from events. Instead we have outsourced catering and the bar so private companies take the profit while we set up for them, clear up after them and just about break even or at best make a small profit. This is deliverable but it is not sustainable.
In order to deliver the growth we need, we have to have a strong and robust partnerships with other districts and Boroughs and above all else with the voluntary sector. Yet your budget is cutting the budget for the voluntary sector by £94,000 and redirecting another £70,000 for the Cabinet to spend. What is going on here? These proposals may well be deliverable but they are creating an unsustainable situation for our voluntary sector and our communities.
£18,000 is being cut from Bloom. This rather begs the question of what the total bill for Bloom is? Was anyone else embarrassed with Bloom this year? All the valiant work by communities and by our staff with wonderful displays, but in a context of filthy, littered streets, knee high weeds, and choking gutters. Perhaps this all needs a serious rethink.
Doing the budget differently
Labour would approach the budget quite differently. First we would zero base all budgets to get an understanding of need and the cost of meeting need. Second we would apply Smart Budgeting principles. This is an efficient use of budgets pooled across departments for particular outcomes, avoiding duplication and producing savings. Third, we would be looking for growth through a number of ethical commercial opportunities. This would mean having a robust investment strategy to include selling assets that cannot be exploited, exploiting assets where we can, joint commercial enterprises with other authorities, joint projects with the voluntary sector and if appropriate, private sector partners, and selling what we do well to other organisations.
Leeds has commercialised what it provides in house and is already good at. This City sells it’s services in catering, cleaning, property maintenance, fleet management, legal services, business support to other organisations such as the NHS, the Ambulance service and other LAs.
Many LAs are turning to commercial enterprise to raise revenue. Corby has a factory in Derby that they are already making an income from. Corby with Kettering are investing £20m a year for three years to develop warehousing and have in the first year made £650,000.
Changing our Practice
As County services contract, as life gets harder for our communities in the urban areas and in the rural areas, we need a rethink about how we deliver services. We need to put people and families at the heart of what we do.
Neighbourhood infrastructure is key. We should buildsocial capital in our neighbourhoods so our residents can look after themselves for longer and look after each other. But this comes at a cost. We need to bring back Neighbourhood Co-ordinators, increase the number of wardens and develop outreach services. We need to work more closely with the voluntary sector, with health, the police and other agencies.
The One Stop shop is brilliant, but it’s no good to a single parent in Briar Hill or the Eastern district with no transport and no childcare. I estimate that putting this in place in just one area as a pilot would cost around £120,000 in the first year- less than the cost of one consultant on working 4 days a week for 6 months. (125,472). A good coordinator-as we know- having employed them in the past, is able to bring in new money and cover their own costs over time. So the cost of Neighbourhood working would decrease over time while the value would go up.
Robust Neighbourhood working would have a strategic development function with multi agency partnerships. The help and support that they can put into neighbourhoods will reduce demand, further down the line, for expensive and scarce resources. Those partnerships are then able to co design and co deliver services, an efficient and effective way of providing and attract new money from Big Capital and Social Investment bonds.
It was agreed at Cabinet to develop a three pronged strategy for housing development in the Borough. It is an approach the Labour group wholeheartedly endorse. This is about us building for mixed tenure to provide for diverse needs. In our view we need to be bolder and set our sights on building more than 100 homes a year. It should be at least 200, half of which should be social housing.
We need to look to other LAs for good practise. Electric Corby has won awards for its work to deliver a greener more sustainable town. Working with local businesses to reduce its Carbon footprint by 50% it has provided jobs, energy efficiencies and saved £1000s.
86% of businesses in the town are SMES, many with a turnover of less than £50,000 a year.
They need our help to start up, to cut costs, to be sustainable.
In summary, our view is that this budget is a high risk. It does not tell us what the real costs of services are, what the demand is and is forecast to be. It is not providing a strategy for real growth. We recommend an alternative approach that puts people and families at the heart of all we do. We need to zero base our budgets. A budget that is evidence led and outcome focused. That looks to build revenue, brings in new money and builds social capital.Just to underline what I am saying I am going to quote from two organisations that support Local Authorities.
A report by Localis published in 2015 talks about the rise of entrepreneurialism in Local government
Launching the report, Alex Thomson, chief executive of Localis said:
“Councils have borne the brunt of austerity, but they have responded with striking innovation to minimise the impact of cuts on their residents. In particular, our research shows councils becoming ever more commercially savvy, bringing in money to support vital local services.”
The Local Government Association offers for support to councils wanting to grow to meet demand and they say:- As funding shrinks exploring new ways to maximise incomes is essential. In order to protect valuable frontline services and ensure positive outcomes for local communities councils are increasingly thinking through a more commercial approach to their activities.
These innovative councils are using their assets wisely, trading services with others across the public and private sectors, and selling commodities to generate income.
Shared Services-my view is that if an in house service for waste collection and environmental services was too risky, we should have shared the risk with other authorities and gone in with e.g. Corby and Kettering.
Other LAs are selling tree pruning and gardening services. Others, that manage their own waste collection services, offer a commercial waste collection to businesses and raises considerable revenue. We have lost that opportunity by outsourcing our service. There are lots of opportunities if we think bigger, if we think how to exploit what we have, if we grow the talent and expertise of our staff.
Examples are -we bought Albion House and maybe we should sell it!
We sold Fish Street and maybe we should have developed that ourselves. We have sold buildings on Guildhall road. Maybe we should have been more business minded and sought to exploit those assets ourselves. With the future move of NPH from Westbridge and the possible relocation of the waste depot on the site, we have an opportunity to redevelop Westbridge to meet the need for light industrial units, to generate rents, rates and if we provide shared services, then charges for that.
We have lots of other opportunities-Greyfriars for example. I am glad that the use of this site is being reviewed and I hope that we will be at least a partner inn that development.
Labour Group Budget Statement Feb 26th 2018 This year our group are not presenting an alternative budget. We are presenting a statement which seeks to do three things. A commentary...
What we did well in 2017 and what we need to do better
I began thinking about my annual state of Northampton address thinking I wouldn’t be able to find much to be positive about. After all, the Labour groups experience over the year has been one of unrelenting case-loads. Evictions, homelessness, overcrowding, debt, domestic violence, crime, fly-tipping and littering and parking, antisocial behaviour. Violent crime is up. Domestic violence - up. Figures for those experiencing loneliness – up! Human trafficking - up.
We know the figures for children living in poverty have gone from 10,000 in 2013 to 15,000 now. We know that for the first time in a decade, mortality rates are increasing; meaning life expectancy is falling for the most disadvantaged.
The growth in HIMOs has unbalanced our housing market taking family homes out of supply and creating unprecedented churn in our communities.
Our retail offer is in decline with more shops closing and our market yet to be revived.
As Labour Councillors we know more and more working households and families with children are using foodbanks.
The near collapse of the County is going to impact on our residents. And we will have to pick up the pieces
Life can be pretty grim out there.
But we have indeed got a good news story to tell as well. The Errol Flynn second cinema has been a resounding success- adding to our cultural offer. The Night Shelter with its army of volunteers has been a success. As well as meeting a need this strategy is building social capital.
Last year we continued to offer town wide events that create a sense of place. Events in the Guildhall have been thrilling. Whether it’s the job fair, or weddings or Xmas parties. Our staff do the most amazing job, are beginning to make a profit, and we applaud them.
Plans for Delapre Abbey, the Museum, the Vulcan works have often been frustrating but are there and going ahead. The move of the University to the Waterside looks as if it is going to complete in time. One Angel Square has brought more workers into town. We have the wonderful new St Crispin’s community Centre. The Enterprise Zone and our work with SEMLEP is contributing to growth.
I want to applaud NPH. Their strategy for working intensively to build and renovate on a patch by patch basis is having huge benefits. As well as leaving the housing offer better than it was before, they are leaving the outside environment better than before and building social capital in neighbourhoods. That cannot be underestimated.
I want to also applaud our wardens and housing officers. These are visible representatives of the Borough and the work they do has a huge impact.
So in 2018 what do we need to be doing?
People and Place
Can I say, for me, our number one priority is staffing? We have a problem with unfilled vacancies, staff retention and too many interim staff. We need to put in place Senior and Permanent members of staff with the skills we need. And who will deliver value for money.
We welcome the move back from 40 to 37 hours a week for staff.
We need staff who understand partnership working, how to build social capital, who will address our housing shortages, the imbalances in the housing market, enforcement and protections for our neighbourhoods.
We need a regeneration plan for the Eastern district.
We need to be more proactive around all those regeneration sites that are lying fallow across the town- Greyfriars, the Chron and Echo site, St Edmund's hospital. There are 9 altogether. We know where they are.
We need to urgently address the issue of air pollution. The latest figures produced by the Chronicle and Echo are horrific. Some sites-like the Drapery - are showing twice permitted levels.
We need to look at our infrastructure needs, - roads, homes, transport. We need more new schools, a new hospital. We need to fight for Unitary status.
We need creative solutions to regenerating the town centre and increasing our cultural offer.
We need to recognise the importance of creating a sense of place. Guildhall events, town wide events help us do that.
We need to develop a forward looking, anti –poverty, growth strategy and we need to get our town clean, safe and green.
What we did well in 2017 and what we need to do better I began thinking about my annual state of Northampton address thinking I wouldn’t be able to find...