Jane's Blog

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...

Unitary- Two Years On.

Let's turn the clock forward two years and imagine that Northampton is in a Unitary Authority with Daventry and South Northants. This is a situation forced on the majority of the population of Northampton residents, against their will.

Northampton residents will form the larger part of the population of this new Unitary.

 60% of the residents in the new Unitary will live in Northampton.

The current spend per head of population in Daventry and South Northants is £310 per head of population. In Northampton it is £446. If the rate of spend in Northampton was reduced to fall in line with Daventry and South Northants the service offered to our residents would be reduced.

Northampton has the greatest income generation and the greatest income spend. Would repair to the potholes in Northampton be prioritised over the Towcester by-pass?

How does the councillor in rural Brackley relate to the homelessness and housing needs in some of our deprived communities?

Where does the democracy lie? Is it with the mainly rural South Northants and Daventry or are the people of Northampton represented fairly? Is Northampton  outvoted at every move? Daventry and South Northants have no experience of working on the scale of Northampton.

How similar are the needs and demands of the residents of Daventry and South Northants to those of the residents of Northampton. What do we have in common?

Locally accountable leadership is the only way to ensure that the services are delivered to our residents and communities in the most appropriate way and give the best value.

The Deloitte Report states that a separate Unitary Northampton is the best model to secure the quality of life for local people.

The proposal of an East and West Unitary authority is a stitch up by the failed Tory County Council and the Government.

Where does the loyalty of the Town MPs sit?

 Not to the people of Northampton if the Two Unitary model goes through.

We want economic self-containment, locally, responsive and accountable leadership.

If we do not fight for this Northampton Town will not forgive nor forget.

Unitary -Two years On

Unitary- Two Years On. Let's turn the clock forward two years and imagine that Northampton is in a Unitary Authority with Daventry and South Northants. This is a situation forced...

Community Safety-  Council 24.4.18

There is increasing concern about the levels of crime in the town. The number of PCSOs and police officer has been cut drastically leaving us with 50 Neighbourhood officers for the whole town; 28 PCSOs, 15 Police Constables and 7 Sergeants. With shift work, holidays and sickness we don't see many on our streets. Crime and the fear of crime are a big.  The police and other services are reduced due to funding cuts at both County and Borough levels.

As the support for our communities diminishes our most vulnerable families are suffering. The loss of Sure Start and children's centres, reduction in mental health provision, the imminent closure of our libraries, the patchy funding for youth groups, the low wage economy and the 15,000 children living in poverty, in our town, provide the environment for the gangs to move in form Birmingham and London to exploit our fragile communities.

The police direct their resources based on the Vulnerable Localities Matrix which ranks areas in the county from 1-490. 20 areas within Northampton are in the top 44 labelled Very High. The top three, the only ones in the Extremely High category , are in our town. The matrix is based on several factors - deprivation, poverty, social housing, drugs, gangs, sex workers, violent crime, domestic violence, rapes - these will direct resources to emerging threats.

There is alarming evidence of children as young as 7 years old being drawn into criminal activity. The drug dealers pay them to deliver drugs and they can be seen doing just this on their bikes in full view,  in our parks and residential streets. With both parents possibly juggling two jobs and no spare money for the children, peer pressure to have the latest phone and fashionable trainers pushes these young people into the hands of the criminal gangs.

The Early Intervention Hub, run by the police, has been piloting a project in Northampton North East since September 2017. Nine PCSOs and officers are working with 46 schools in the area. They work with children as young as five who have been identified by school staff.  There is an acknowledgement by the PCC that the timely help for children and their families who need it will prevent long term, traumatic and costly changes to themselves, their communities and society.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) refers to the sources of stress that children may suffer in early life. These include abuse, neglect, violence between parents, alcohol and substance misuse, and peer and community violence.

 Considerable and prolonged stress in childhood has lifelong consequences. It can increase the likelihood of involvement in violence and a range of other problems. Early intervention programmes, such as parenting support can enable parents to provide safe nurturing environments for their children.

 Promoting social and emotional learning in Primary schools is critical for supporting children who are at risk of gang involvement, youth violence and other poor outcomes. These social and emotional skills are vitally important for children's life chances. These skills include the ability to understand and manage emotions and regulate behaviour - skills which help children to develop resilience and avoid risky situations.

This council will therefore take the following actions :

  • We need to know and understand from the PCC and a new chief constable the full picture of crime in the town.
  • We will  support the continued funding of the Early Intervention Hub and its expansion to other areas of the town.
  • We will ask our Community Safety team to work with partners to assess the risk and produce an updated  community safety strategy to include the risk of gang violence and crime to our young children.
  • In the recently published Serious Violence Strategy Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, states 'I am also clear that Police and Crime Commissioners have a pivotal role to play and I want to see them prioritise and work in partnership to tackle the serious violence that damages communities'.
  • We will  urge the PCC and the Community Safety Partnership 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.

This was my speech to our Labour motion. The motion was amended by the Tory administration and turned into a self congratulatory motion about what is happening - not what should done.

We are worried about escalating crime

Community Safety-  Council 24.4.18 There is increasing concern about the levels of crime in the town. The number of PCSOs and police officer has been cut drastically leaving us with...

Queens Park Neighbourhood Plan  - Cabinet April 2018

As the Ward Councillor for Trinity and the County Councillor for Kingsthorpe South I fully support this application for Queens Park Neighbourhood Forum and Queens Park Neighbourhood Area.

Firstly I would like to thank the Planning Officers who have offered support and advice to the residents in reaching this milestone.

This application has grown from the residents of the  Queens Park area who want to work together to produce a planning framework that reflects the views, aspirations, wants and needs of local people.

The proliferation of HMOs over the past years and the recent large scale developments have prompted the residents to wish to find a way to have more say over the future of their neighbourhood.

Thornton Park is the only substantial green space available locally to the residents of the area. After long discussion, consultation with Friends of Thornton Park and at the request of Thornton Park allotment committee, it was decided to include Thornton Park within the boundary.

It is probably more helpful to the understanding of the purpose and process of Neighbourhood Planning to describe the Neighbourhood Area, that enclosed by the boundary, as the Area of Benefit.

During the formation of the plan all who live or work in the area, are active in an organisation within the area, are an elected representative, use and enjoy the amenities or live nearby are part of the consultation.

ALL are included, and local residents help to make sure that a neighbourhood plan is based on proper understanding of the area and reflect the vision of the community.

The analysis of the responses from the consultation process show time and time again that the objections indicate

  • misinformation and a lack of understanding about the process,
  • lack of understanding of the advantages of a Neighbourhood Plan
  • and the opportunities this can bring to the Area of Benefit.

A Neighbourhood Plan is founded on a robust programme of community engagement and a strong proportionate evidence base. Why would anyone argue against empowering our communities to engage, and make a positive contribution to the safety and security of the neighbourhood, protect our environment, ensure homes for families, aim to reduce pollution and invest in strategic leisure and recreational facilities for the area and Northampton as a whole?

Can I stress that nobody is excluded from community engagement and indeed engaging with the wider community right from the beginning of the plan-making process will ensure a genuine representation of the range of wants and needs in the local area.

The preparation of a Neighbourhood Plan allows the community to actively participate in local democracy.

Let's look at the tangible benefits.

  • The Forum becomes a consultee for planning applications in the area.
  • The council will engage with the community to agree how the 25% of CIL receipts from developments within the Queens Park Neighbourhood Area should be spent.
  • The existence of a Neighbourhood Plan will open avenues to further funding streams,
  • and engagement in the process is likely to have a positive impact, giving residents power to shape their own communities.

I urge you to support the designation of this Neighbourhood Area.

Queens Park Neighbourhood Plan

Queens Park Neighbourhood Plan  - Cabinet April 2018 As the Ward Councillor for Trinity and the County Councillor for Kingsthorpe South I fully support this application for Queens Park Neighbourhood...

Dissatisfaction around the service from Northgate Bus Station has been well  reported and documented over the past four years.

Talking to drivers and regular users it is simply not big enough. There are 12 departure bays in the bus station and a further 8 for southbound journeys in the Drapery. This means that two thirds of the passengers have to wait in the Drapery for their bus. These departure points are not reasonably protected from adverse weather conditions Many of our residents using the buses are elderly with reduced mobility, or young families with buggies and small children. It is not right that they wait for buses in the open.

During the peak hours of 12noon to 1pm there are approximately 100 departures. From 7am to 6 pm there are on average 80-100 departures an hour. 1,200 is a huge number of traffic movements per day . The subsequent congestion and gridlock in Bradshaw Street and Greyfriars regularly brings traffic to a standstill. There has been a series of collisions involving cars and buses on surrounding roads and it is only a matter of time before someone is seriously hurt.

The design of the bus station -DIRO (Drive in Reverse out) is ill suited to such high level frequency services, resulting in hazardous tailbacks. Manouvering space is required for vehicles entering and leaving. Wide spaces are needed  and the drivers' view is that the bays are only marginally wider than the buses. Reversing is tight with little space before the run through where buses wait for a vacated bay.

I believe that  Northgate is not sufficiently large to this to happen safely

With all this traffic comes dangerously high levels of pollution which has been found to be 25%higher than the legal limits. The EU upper limit for nitrogen dioxide is 40 micrograms per cubic metre. Around the bus station 53 micrograms per cubic metre has been found. NBC pollution monitors have recorded illegal limits 80% of the time. In Northampton 6.1% of fatalities every year are believed to be premature deaths caused by air pollution. This is a Public Health emergency. Who would want to shop, or work in such an environment.

Declaring a single AQMA for the town centre is a move to monitor air quality but will not tackle the inherent problem of high traffic along the Drapery and the bus station. A Low Emissions Strategy will take a long time to make a difference to this area.

We ask for an independent and comprehensive  Health and Safety inspection of the movement of traffic in and around the bus station and  the levels of pollution. Then we need to look at ways to reduce the traffic, to ban illegal traffic along the Drapery, and  perhaps consider re-locating part of the bus station to another part of town.

Northgate- An Independent Health Audit Needed

Dissatisfaction around the service from Northgate Bus Station has been well  reported and documented over the past four years. Talking to drivers and regular users it is simply not big...

I am here to put the case for the libraries in the urban areas of our town which have no Parish Council to support them - St James, Far Cotton, Abington , Kingsthorpe.

I am speaking particularly about Kingsthorpe. This is the library used and loved by the communities I represent.

Kingsthorpe Library is ideally situated in the heart of Kingsthorpe local shops. There is easy parking and a vibrant retail offer  of supermarkets, banks, chemists, newsagents, hair dressers, cafes and restaurants. Kingsthorpe Library is easily reached by bus from Pitsford, Boughton, Welford , Kelmarsh and the new housing developments at Buckton Fields. The residents of these communities would also be affected by the closure of Kingsthorpe Library.

Kingsthorpe library serves a wide demographic. Communities which fall into 10% ofthe highest deprivation indices in the country  for Education, Skills and Training, also Health, Deprivation and Disability live within easy walking distance of Kingsthorpe library. These are people who are living in poverty, with ill health and rely on the library to make their welfare applications and  job searches using the library IT services. 

Educational attainment in Northampton is well below the average. We need to increase levels of literacy and learning for our young people to ensure better futures for them and their families. A local solicitor told me how he did his homework in Kingsthorpe library .In a family of five children there was nowhere quiet for him to work. A young mum tells me how she is with her children during the week. At weekends she goes to Kingsthorpe library to study for her accountancy qualifications.

Like many libraries Kingsthorpe is a vibrant community hub - busy with parents and young children, craft and hobby groups, health visitors, and book borrowers. It is a social centre reducing isolation and loneliness and enabling people to make friends. This is the glue which keeps communities and neighbourhoods strong and resilient. Faced with such a reduction in public services this becomes ever more needed.

Kingsthorpe is in a unique position in that the building is neither owned by the Borough nor the county. The private landlord granted a 99 year lease in return for a peppercorn rent of £15 333 a year, this includes rates. How much would it cost to terminate the lease with approximately 60 years remaining?

Of the libraries retained under Option 2  At 56 hours, Kingsthorpe has longer opening hours than Irthlingborough, Brixworth, Brackley, Oundle, Burton Latimer and Duston. The property costs are lower than Burton Latimer, Oundle, Brackley, Brixworth, Weston Favell, Corby and Irthlingborough.  Kingsthorpe is classed as a medium library. Two other medium libraries in Northampton ,retained under Option 2 are Duston and Hunsbury. Both with Parish Councils and both with Tory councillors. Are these more valid than Kingsthorpe?

I recently cut the ribbon to open a new library in a converted classroom in Kingsthorpe Grove Primary School.  To see the excitement on the children's faces as they saw the brightly painted room with pictures of their favourite storybook characters. the colourful cushions and shelves of books  was an absolute joy. Every child should have access to such pleasures. There was a large collage on the wall - Reading Gives you Wings. How true is that!

Tomorrow, March 1st, is World Book Day. It is the biggest celebration of reading, marked by over 100 countries over the world. If today  you turn the key and lock the door of libraries such as Kingsthorpe you will be making life and the future just that bit more bleak and hard for the local communities. Teresa May talks about the 'just about managing' families  I would describe the some of the residents  I represent as the 'already struggling'

Save Urban Libraries

I am here to put the case for the libraries in the urban areas of our town which have no Parish Council to support them - St James, Far Cotton,...

I would like to talk about the effects of the proposed funding cuts to the voluntary sector. After six years of austerity and vast cuts to public services and welfare we have seen a new era of poverty with evictions, hunger and debt.

The proliferation of food banks and 'pay as you feel' cafes in the town are evidence of hungry families. The homeless are visible on our streets and families are far too long in temporary accommodation. Northampton has one of the highest levels of personal debt and in the Domestic Abuse court up to 20 cases a day are heard.

These are all symptoms of our communities under stress. The reality of this is, that we are facing a scale of hardship that is teetering on disaster. The collapse of services provided by the County Council will only add to the demands on the voluntary sector.

In this climate this administration is proposing a cut of £94,000 to the voluntary sector, CEFAP budget.  Added to this £70,000 is to be removed and allocated, at the discretion of the Cabinet. A further £30,000 is to be removed to be spent on the Festive Road. Funds available to local groups this year have been reduced to a third of what was available last year. From a pot of £100,000 it may be only 6 or 7 groups are funded.

These local organisations can often offer better value and greater flexibility in responding to changing local demands. Grants are an investment in the community, which can be used to attract other resources, such as volunteers, as well as further funding, including donations and other voluntary income. Without organisations supported by these grants people will suffer, and long term problems facing our communities will never be resolved

It is clear that without greater levels of investment the voluntary sector organisations simply cannot adequately support or empower the people they work with. With the prospect of our communities increasingly needing strong and robust partnerships perhaps it is time to reinstate the Neighbourhood Co-ordinators. The demands of funding for the voluntary sector will only increase..

New sources of income must also be found.  A greatly undervalued asset is the building we are all sitting in tonight. We have a building which provides a unique and splendid backdrop for events, ceremonies  and special occasions. It is truly magnificent . Do we exploit its commercial potential to the full extent?  I think not. A proposed 4.9% increase on an already very modest room hire charge is neither realistic nor responsible. The use of our wonderful parks and open spaces by commercial companies, at no charge, is an insult to rate payers who are paying £5 to park their car on the Racecourse.

I have talked about the impact of reduced funding to the voluntary sector. Let us not forget that these relatively small grants of £10 -20,000 , fund valuable projects which is where expertise and knowledge is often developed. These projects will  sustain neighbourhood infrastructure and build social capital  so our residents are in a position to look after themselves and others for longer. This is excellent value for money.

As forecasts go, it's acutely grim. Over the next five years , British families face a worse squeeze on their living standards than after the global financial crash.

 We must do all we can to provide a safety net to prevent the risk of betraying the most vulnerable in our communities. The generation of funds by realistic commercial income from the Borough's assets would be a good place to start.

Cuts affect Voluntary Sector

I would like to talk about the effects of the proposed funding cuts to the voluntary sector. After six years of austerity and vast cuts to public services and welfare...

Rt. Hon Margaret Bondfield - a Labour politician, Trades Unionist

and women's rights activist.

She was the first female Cabinet Minister, first privy Councillor and first female Minister of Labour in the government of          1929 - 31. She campaigned tirelessly all her life to better the lives of working women and families.

She became an active member of the Shopworkers Union, campaigned for universal adult suffrage for both men and women and the right of women to become MPs

She worked for the Women's Co-operative Guild on maternity and child welfare and joined the 'War Against Poverty' campaign looking at women's working conditions, the minimum wage rates, infant mortality, child welfare . She assisted in education and training programmes. She fought for the unionisation of women and campaigned for equal pay with men for women for equal work.

After the second World War in 1918 women over 30 with property or educational qualifications, were given the vote.

In 1918 she was the first woman to be elected to the General Council of the TUC.

Between 1920 and 1922 she stood in a by election and general election in Northampton but lost, even with the help of George Bernard Shaw. She stood again in 1923 and, third time lucky, she  won and became the first Labour MP for Northampton and one of only three in the country.

In an outburst of local celebration her supporters, who she described as 'nearly crazy with joy' paraded her around the town in a charabanc.

She lost her seat in Northampton but remained a Labour MP until 1931.

During the Second World War she worked on solutions for inner-city poverty suggesting  nursery education, a minimum wage, child allowances and a national health service and launched a drive for more women police officers.

Rt. Hon Margaret Bondfield was truly  a remarkable woman.  It is unbelievable that 100 years later, we still campaign on many of the issues she fought for. She was to be followed by only two other women MPs in Northampton  - Maureen Colquhoun from 1974 -79 and Sally Keeble from 1997- 2010, both Labour MPs.

As the 1918 centenary  of the start of universal suffrage approaches we owe Margaret Bondfield recognition for all the groundbreaking work she did and it was the people of Northampton who set her on  course for her parliamentary career.

The University has Halls of Residence named after her and there is Bondfield Avenue in St David's. We need a new road sign there , by the way,  it is tilting dangerously to the left. Perhaps that, as well as a commemorative statue could be agreed for 2018.

Celebrating Women's Suffrage

Rt. Hon Margaret Bondfield - a Labour politician, Trades Unionist and women's rights activist. She was the first female Cabinet Minister, first privy Councillor and first female Minister of Labour...

Refugee Week 2017

By bringing this motion to the Council we are asking for the relevant Cabinet Member to look at how Northampton can play a part in Refugee Week next year.

We have heard Nour's heartbreaking story of  the impossible decision to stay in Syria and face starvation, rape, persecution and death or the make the enormous decision to leave her home and family to find sanctuary, a safe home and a place to continue her studies here in Northampton.

Today is the start of Refugee Week and tomorrow the 20th June is World Refugee Day. This week is the start of the United Kingdom's biggest festival. The festival which started in 1998 will see tens of thousands of people across the country attending all kinds of cultural and educational events.

It is an opportunity to shine a light on individual stories, and aims to tell these stories in different ways. We often hear of refugees numbering in their thousands and it can be difficult to remember that behind the number there is an ordinary person with the same hopes and dreams we all have.

 Northampton is a town already enriched by  many and diverse cultures. It is through participation and enjoyment of the art, dance, music, drama, poetry, stories and culture that a greater understanding between communities flourishes and grows.

 The arts transcend barriers of language, race, age and nationality.   By telling their stories, by whatever means, we can be humbled by an insight into the oppression and dangers which drive people to leave their homes and often their families, to make the perilous journey to our country and to our town.

Northampton Town of Sanctuary works with the University, faith groups, community organisations, the Interfaith forum and volunteers to offer education and practical help,  particularly to young people who have come to our town. Foster parents, youth groups, support in school and activities are  arranged for the unaccompanied asylum seeking children to make them feel safe and work towards coming to terms with the traumas experienced on their journey. As part of Refugee Week, the Northampton Town of Sanctuary is running a stall on Saturday, in the market square, we encourage you all to come along. 

Our wish is that next year, during Refugee Week, Northampton can add its voice and join in with the hundreds of other festivals and events around the country. We can listen to the stories, hear the music, engage with the art and join in with the dance. We have talented and powerful artists and musicians who have sought sanctuary  in our town, they will challenge misconceptions and we can all understand each other better. We should probably include some Morris Dancers as an example of British history and heritage. Some young Eritrarian  asylum seekers recently came to a Barn Dance and after a half hour of complete mystification they were dozey-do-ing with ferocious energy and enthusiasm. Their willingness to engage and join in, is a lesson to us all.

This past weekend has seen the 'Great Get Together' on the anniversary of the murder of Jo Cox. Hundreds of events were held around the country to celebrate her work and passion for life. My daughter knew her at university and said Jo was always going to do something amazing. She certainly did. Jo Cox campaigned for more help and protection for civilians and victims in Syria. For medical and food drops to besieged communities. She went on to launch, alongside Andrew Mitchell, the all party parliamentary committee on Syria, and became its chair. She campaigned tirelessly for stronger communities and greater understanding of the plight of refugees.

Refugee Week gives us another opportunity to pause and reflect on Jo's life and work. The hopeful words in her maiden speech in Parliament 'we are far more united and have far more in common than that which divides us' resonates not only with the plight of the refugees and asylum seekers in our town but throughout the country. We ask for your support for Northampton to play our part in Refugee Week next year.

Refugee Week 2018

Refugee Week 2017 By bringing this motion to the Council we are asking for the relevant Cabinet Member to look at how Northampton can play a part in Refugee Week...

Speech to Northampton Borough Council April 2017

Earlier this evening the Leader spoke about commissioning Deloitte to assess the options for possible Unitary Status. It is good to hear that investigations are underway to suggest ways to deliver the best quality services.

As a council we need to be looking forward to the challenges and responsibilities which face this council in  the years to come. We must start thinking of the way we would want to shape the services offered to the residents of the  town. If we are to become a Unitary authority we must prepare.

Our concern tonight is the future of our schools both at the moment and looking to the future. The move of schools away from local authority control towards Academisation has not been without problems. The recent request from the Education Fellowship Trust to transfer all 12 of its academies to new sponsors and the dismissal of 40 support staff from Malcolm Arnold Academy is an indication of the difficulties faced by these Academy Trusts.

How can an educational system where the pay of the CEO of the trust is based on the Ofsted reports  enhance teaching and learning? David Ross Education Trust has 33 academies. 17 of these are either rated 'good or outstanding' (16 are in need of improvement). The CEO is paid £10,000 for every good/outstanding school in the group. Her salary is £170,000 per year. A 13% rise. . This is no way to run education for our children. It is a business model and with headteacher's  pay between £150,000 to over £300,000 no wonder these trusts run into financial difficulty. With only some staff receiving the recommended 1% pay rise teachers often stay no longer that 5 years . There is uncertainty and recruitment is an issue. There are 90 Primary posts advertised in Northamptonshire as of yesterday. It is time to think about the possibility of  bring some academies back into local authority control.

The Educational Select committee made up from MPs of all parties has recommended that Local Authorities should be allowed to create MAT's. This is backed up by the National Schools Commissioner saying that he would not want 'to get in the way' of entire councils wanting to establish their own trusts. The Educational Policy Institute has also called for the government to allow high performing councils to set up their own trusts.

Analysis by the Local Government Association shows that local authority maintained schools continue to perform more highly in Ofsted inspections than academies. With the low attainment of many pupils in Northampton this is an added concern.

We are failing our children if we do not consider ways of securing their educational future. We must start putting into place the mechanisms for taking on the responsibilities and building capacity to establish our own Trust and use the expertise we have to deliver outstanding schools.

Local schools for local children

Speech to Northampton Borough Council April 2017 Earlier this evening the Leader spoke about commissioning Deloitte to assess the options for possible Unitary Status. It is good to hear that...

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