Friday brief: Secret meeting about council lawsuit approves a settlement sum
Plus news from Westminster, our independent business of the week and some things to do at the weekend
To receive our independent journalism straight to your inbox every weekday upgrade your subscription below
North Northamptonshire councillors last night approved a substantial settlement sum for a legal action being brought against the authority by a wrongly jailed publican.
Geoff Monks, former owner of the Snooty Fox pub in Lowick has been in a lengthy legal battle with the new authority’s predecessor council, East Northants District Council (ENDC) over wrongly brought food hygiene offences, which saw him jailed in 2003.
Monks is suing for malicious prosecution and malfeasance in public office and wants compensation for lost earnings after having to sell off three pubs he owned after the former East Northants Council prosecuted him in the early 2000s for a number of different trumped up offences. He had his conviction overturned in 2015.
The meeting of the full council in Thrapston last night was held in a private session, meaning that members of the press and public were excluded. Some councillors think the matter should have been discussed in public to make it ‘open and transparent’ and so that local taxpayers could be informed of the decisions they were making.
The authority has been in mediation with the former publican since the summer and last night a sum was approved to offer to Monks, with the funds anticipated to come out of the authority’s reserves this financial year.
It is understood to be a much higher figure than was originally agreed by the council in the summer at an earlier secret meeting, which NN Journal understands was refused by Monks.
He brought legal action against ENDC in 2018, but the authority kept the lawsuit under wraps and did not resolve the matter before the council was closed down, with the liability instead transferring to the new unitary.
The issue caused much upset when it first came to light just weeks after the authority began, with many understood to be upset with former ENDC leader Cllr Stephen North for keeping the matter secret.
He was a member of the new unitary’s cabinet but stood down earlier this summer saying he wanted to ‘a break from the top level of local politics.’ He now works for Wellingborough MP Peter Bone.
Read our exclusive when we broke this story earlier this year
News in Brief
Despite a pledge from West Northants Council to plant more trees across the area there was a net loss of 140 in the last quarter. Cllr Phil Larratt, cabinet member for Climate, Transport, Highways and Waste Services said the figure was “very disappointing” and told a cabinet meeting this week he would be looking into it.
Several cases of bird flu have been discovered in wild birds in Northamptonshire amid rising numbers of the disease across the country. Last month an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) came into force and was extended to include housing measures across the UK on November 29. UK Chief Veterinary Officer Christine Middlemiss said at the time:
“We have taken swift action to limit the spread of the disease but we are continuing to see a growing number of bird flu cases on farms and in backyard flocks across the country. Whether you keep just a few birds or thousands you must take action now to protect your birds from this highly infectious disease.”
Northampton North MP Michael Ellis faced jeers in parliament yesterday during an urgent question over the alleged Downing Street Christmas party on December 18th. During the session Ellis, who is also the paymaster general, told the Commons that he had “known the prime minister for many years and he is a man of honour and integrity.”
MP for Wellingborough Peter Bone also stood up and said Johnson was “doing a great job of running the country” before asking who had given assurances to the prime minister that no Covid rules were broken at the alleged gathering.
Phillip Hollobone, MP for Kettering took a much tougher line saying “My constituents in Kettering are very angry indeed at reports of Christmas parties in Downing Street during what was a very large second wave of Covid. The behaviour was totally inappropriate and possibly criminal.”
Meanwhile, the prime minister’s integrity which Ellis spoke of was being called into further question over the refurbishment of his Downing Street flat. A report from the Electoral Commission found that the Conservatives had failed to correctly report donations from a company called Huntswood Associates Limited which is run by Tory donor Lord Brownlow.
The report revealed that Johnson sent a Whatsapp message to Lord Brownlow in November 2020 asking for money towards the refurbishment. However Johnson told the ministerial standards advisor that he wasn’t aware of who had funded the work until Feb 2021.
Independent of the week
As well as stocking Annie Sloan chalk paint, The Chalk Paint Guy in Raunds sells vintage and retro furniture together with a range of locally made giftware.
The owner of the shop also runs tutorials and workshops to show you how to upcycle items using the paints yourself. Find out more here: https://thechalkpaintguy.com/
🌳The Save Weekley Hall Woods group is holding a Woodland Winter Festival on Sunday between 4-6pm. A twilight walk through Weekley Hall Woods will include performances by poets, musicians and storytellers.
🎙 Northampton singer Afriene has released a new single with artist Subten. Next to Me is available on all streaming platforms.
🚜There’s a Christmas Tractor Run in Brackley on Sunday. All tractors and vehicles will be starting from Egerton Hall at 6pm. The route will then go down Humphries Drive, onto the Banbury Road, back up the High Street and will finish at Egerton Hall.
🎼Fiori Musicali's musicians will be presenting music by Vivaldi, Monteverdi, Buxtehude and Corelli and others at the Lamport Hall tonight at 7pm.