Happy New Year!
2016 was a tough year for many people in Northampton. By working together we can help make 2017 better for our families, for our children and for the elderly and vulnerable.
Many people are taking action to support their communities and local organisations. It is heartening to see so much voluntary effort going in to improve the local environment, to tackle food poverty, to offer friendship to those who are in need. I would like to applaud all our Councillors, the community activists, and the individuals and groups who help maintain the resilience of our communities and bring hope that things can change.
There are a number of political priorities for this year.
First we have the county elections coming up. We need to see a change at County Hall in May. The Tories are spending £51 million pounds on the “New Generation” model of local government. This model duplicates management costs and removes much democratic control. It will take many years before we will be able to tell if the transformation leads to service improvements. The County has a plan to save its undeliverable budget. The plan is to take over the districts and boroughs and take over their budgets. Unitary status for the County is the plan. We need to fight it.
Second we have a Tory Borough Council that is heading for an £8 million budget gap in the next three years. This is the Administration that has “lost” over £10.25 million in loans to the Cobblers.
The internal audit report into the loan has shown the council was inept in the way it handled all its loans to third parties. There was a political imperative behind most of these loans. It is quite right that the Labour Group has been instrumental in “Sackingtosh”, the SacktheMack campaign. Please look out for the next demonstration organised by the Campaign Forum and join us if you can.
Our biggest crisis is in housing. It is obvious to all of us that there has been dramatic increase in homelessness and people sleeping on the streets. There are hidden problems to do with overcrowding, insecure tenancies leading to families having frequent moves, increased rents but caps on benefits, the bedroom tax, and a squeeze on adaptions for the disabled.
Council Tax is set to rise for all of us this year. There is a proposal to make the very poor pay more than their fair share. This is the Council Tax reduction scheme. Please help oppose this by responding to the consultation.http://www.northampton.gov.uk/info/200008/benefits/2156/council-tax-reduction-scheme-consultation-201617. The closing date was November 6th. Don’t let that stop you raising objections!
The Boroughs budget proposals do not address the issues. We need a radically different approach to how we manage our budgets, how we prioritise our spend, how we generate income.
It is disappointing that the Borough have decided to outsource environmental services yet again. We have had a bad experience of an outsourced service with our town looking dirty and uncared for. There are good reasons to bring the service either back in house or to create an arm’s length Borough company. We need a service that can respond to changing landscapes with waste. We need to reduce waste, reuse what we can and recycle as much as we can. It is really costly to change contracts once they are set. An out sourced service will not give us the flexibility we need. It is also more costly with 4% added for a profit margin. We know that when expenses go up and profits go down the work force is squeezed. We will be fighting for the contract to include the Living Wage Foundation pay scales and good terms and conditions for staff.
Above all we need to be fighting for Unitary Status for Northampton. To meet the Government’s population watermark of 350,000 we would need to slightly enlarge the town by incorporating some of the Sustainable Urban areas. This would be helpful. At present other authorities get the money for urban development on our borders but we carry the infrastructure and service costs.
Unitary status would mean we can work with our town schools to help raise achievement. It means we can deliver our own childrens services, our own adult services and support the vulnerable.
Your Labour Councillors will be out and about in the New Year, running street campaigns, organising litter picks, supporting Neighbourhood plans, and being your voice in the Council. Please do join us where you can.
It will be great to see some of you at the Socialist Curry club on January 29th. This is a good opportunity for you to meet your Councillors and chat in an informal atmosphere. Please contact Cllr. Birch for detail, email@example.com 07710967882
Other open Borough consultations – please see below. The budget consultation will be open soon.
Taxi and private hire emissions and age policy (24 November to 16th February 2017)
Many thanks and all good wishes,