First can I thank everyone for their kind wishes for my son and my family? My son is making a good recovery.
As a Labour opposition group we continue to hold the Tories to account. We have discussed at the Shadow Cabinet how to maintain and increase the pressure. Each Shadow Portfolio has agreed to monitor the Tories against their Manifesto Commitments. We don’t want to just oppose. We want to find creative, deliverable solutions to the major issues facing the town. The Labour Group at the Guildhall is an Administration in waiting.
Democracy Week was October 10 - 16th 2016. Cllr Julie Davenport hosted young people in the Guildhall and I hosted primary school children. Both groups took part in debates in the council chamber. I also ran a European Awareness conference for 6th formers over at County Hall and went in to a Secondary school to talk about Democracy and what being a Councillor means.
Rights at Work I am pleased at the recent decision to restore two of the three days of sick leave for the staff. We have been pushing for full restoration and this is a step in the right direction.
At my recent update meeting with Unison it was agreed we would try to involve the GMB in our meetings and to plan a day of joint action for March. The Labour Group wants to promote trade union membership to all council staff.
Local Plan Cllr McCutcheon and I sit on the committee developing the Local Plan. Each stage will go out for consultation and we need to ensure all our residents know about it. It guides planning and regeneration decisions for years to come.
Councillors and members took part in the National Education not Segregation and the rights at work days of action. I would encourage all members to take part in the next day of action to Defend the NHS on Nov 26th. Labour Councillors will once again play an important role in this.
The Socialist Curry Club continues. Cllr Jane Birch is no longer an officer of the CLP and so I have agreed she can continue to run the club on behalf of the Labour Group. The next date is November 27th, 5pm at the Lasaan restaurant, Whitehills. Please RSVP to Cllr. Birch 07710967882. The club raises a small amount of money and I am proposing that this goes into Labour Group funds to help pay for the town-wide leaflet. We need to win the Borough for Labour and we need to keep in touch with the electorate beyond wards where we have Labour Cllrs. Many thanks to all the members who have agreed to help us leaflet.
Northampton Town of Sanctuary had a very positive meeting with the Borough Council Leadership who agreed that support for refugees/asylum seekers in terms of housing would be forthcoming when needed and as appropriate. Two Syrian children from Calais have been reunited with their families in Northampton. 140 Unaccompanied minors are in foster placements, mostly in the town. Two have reached the age of 18 and there is anxiety about what is going to happen to them because their status has not been confirmed. We have also had a very positive meeting with the leader of the County Council.
The Boundary Commission held consultations in the Guildhall. Thanks to the regional office, we were able to make some really excellent contributions with Cllr. Birch, Cllr. Haque and Cllr Smith supporting me in challenging the draft proposals. Labour is arguing for Kings Heath, Spencer, Castle and Semilong move into Northampton North and Park, Billing and Riverside move into Northampton South.
I have also met the Independen Remuneration panel. This panel reviews councillor allowances. The points I made were-
The Labour Manifesto agreed to freeze allowances for the whole of this term. We need a more diverse group of people becoming Councillors. We need more young people, more women, and more people from BAME communities. The level of remuneration acts as a barrier to people on low incomes, zero hour contracts, self -employed, on supply or agency working. Few if any Cllrs know they can claim carers allowances if they need e.g. to find sitters to allow them to attend meetings. I agreed that allowances should be indexed linked. I was asked what level it should be at. It was a question I couldn’t answer. The County Councillors get £9000 plus allowances. The Borough gets £6000pa plus allowances.
We must remember councillors get an allowance NOT a salary.
Cabinet has just agreed to commission environmental services from an outside provider. We are totally opposed to that and have found the report commissioned on the future of the environmental contract deficient. The Labour group has called the decision in. Any one from the public can register to speak at the Call In.
The deputy leader and I have a full itinerary of visits ahead of us to help establish Labour in the town. We are meeting SEMLEP, the Chamber of Commerce, Community Law, Voluntary Impact Northampton, Lowdown and Women’s Aid.
Please see below recent changes to the shadow cabinet. Labour Shadow Cabinet members have a positive dialogue with many local Labour Party members.
Leader, Danielle Stone
Deputy Leader, Community Engagement and Safety Jane Birch
Finance Portfolio, Elizabeth Gowen
Town Centre and Sports Clubs, Cathrine Russell
Environment, Enam Haque
Planning and Regeneration, Arthur McCutcheon
Housing and Wellbeing, Rufia Ashraf
Finally. I continue to run Leader surgeries on the last Friday of each month. If there is a particular issue members would like to raise with a shadow cabinet member I can ask them to attend. As Leader of the Labour Group I would like to continue to listen to the view of ordinary members.
All best wishes