Friday brief: FOI reveals more Qatar investments by West unitary
Plus more news from across Northamptonshire and our usual Friday features
The transcript of a freedom of information request about West Northamptonshire Council’s investments in Qatar, has revealed the authority has invested even more cash with the country’s state bank than first admitted.
The authority told NN Journal earlier this week that it had invested £13m with the state bank, however the FOI request made by the Guardian as part of a wider investigation of local councils, has shown that altogether £21m of taxpayers money has made it into the account of Qatar National Bank (QNB).
The world cup hosts laws on homosexuality and the way women are treated are currently in the spotlight ahead of the start of the tournament this Sunday, with many who have dealt or traded with the country coming under scrutiny. The QNB has helped fund the estimated £220bn cost of the sporting tournament.
The FOI transcript reveals that investments of £8m which were made this January and matured in August.
In a statement given to NN Journal earlier this week the council’s finance boss Martin Henry only referenced existing £13m and said the current investments start to mature next month and the authority did not expect to re-invest with QNB.
The authority however decided not to answer the Guardian’s question about how much interest the authority has made from investing in Qatar. It said that after weighing it up, it was not in the public interest to reveal the amount gained on maturity of the investment.
The council’s investment strategy has been under the scrutiny of a working party of councillors, who had been ready to publish a report ahead of the news about the Qatar investment. Members of the group had been unaware of the investment despite asking questions about non-ethical investments.
It is understood this report will now be re-examined and the council’s policy on investments has also been requested by a councillor who is concerned about where the authority is placing its cash.
Leader of the Labour opposition Wendy Randall, says her group will be asking questions. She said:
“This is public money. Why should the amount of interest earned be secret? It is not the council’s money, it is public money and the public should be able to know everything about how it’s spent.”
News in brief:
The county’s police and crime commissioner Stephen Mold is launching a survey asking Kettering and Northampton residents for their views on the night time economy and how safe it is.
It’s part of a focus on improving safety for women in those towns and is the start of a collaboration with Night Time Economy Solutions, which will end in the creation of a ‘women’s safety charter’.
The survey can be accessed here: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/NorthamptonNTE2
A Labour councillor on North Northamptonshire Council is calling for a consultation panel to be created to ‘quality assure’ all consultations undertaken by the authority. Cllr Leanne Buckingham is putting forward the motion to set up a cross party of councillors following the council’s recent dismissal of public opinion regarding bringing in green waste collection charges and hiking the cost of cabs in Corby. In both instances the executive, which is led by Cllr Jason Smithers, decided to go against the views of the majority of respondents.
The motion will be discussed at the upcoming full council meeting next Thursday.
A recommendation to change the time of full council meetings to 5pm is also up for a vote. There was some controversy last year when the authority decided to have the full councils at 2pm with many saying it hampered councillors employed in other jobs from attending.
Councillors are paid an annual allowance which is to cover expenses including taking time off work to attend meetings.
A Northamptonshire WPC has been found guilty of assaulting a bouncer last December.
Police constable Karen Canwell was ordered to pay a £1609 fine after a two day trial this week at Leicester Magistrates court.
Canwell was inside the King Edward VII pub in Rushden on December 11 when a disturbance happened which spilled out onto the street. Canwell, 37, hit the bouncer twice in the chest.
DCI Andy Rogers of Northamptonshire Police said:
“We are extremely disappointed that PC Canwell, a serving police officer here at Northamptonshire Police, has been found guilty of assault.
“Her conduct has fallen way below what we would expect of any police officer in this Force. PC Canwell was placed onto restricted duties whilst the investigation took place. A misconduct investigation will now take place led by our Professional Standards Department.”
A councillor on North Northamptonshire Council has died. Conservative Kevin Thurland was elected to the authority last May and represented the Northall ward in Kettering. Read the obituary piece from Northants Telegraph
Northampton South MP Andrew Lewer welcomed the secretary of state for international trade Kemi Badenoch to the county this week
Meanwhile Northern Ireland Secretary and Daventry MP Chris Heaton-Harris has welcomed chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s autumn budget yesterday. The chancellor set out new plans which will involve tax rises, some extra funding for education and the NHS and more money for adult social care.
Those receiving universal credit will also have to work with an employment coach in order to work out how to increase their hours. He has also asked former Labour health secretary Patricia Hewitt to oversee an NHS review and to look at how Integrated Care Boards operate and are accountable. Local councils will also be able to levy more tax locally.
The shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves accused the government of operating like an episode of former 1980s soap opera Dallas and said people had never paid so much for so little in return. The Office for Budget Responsibility has said living standards are set to fall to the lowest levels since records began in the 1950s.
🎨 A textiles and printmaking masterclass is taking place at the KHL community workshop in Hazel Leys, Corby, tomorrow from 10am.
🎻 Rutland Sinfonia is performing Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto tomorrow evening at St Peter’s Church in Oundle from 7.30pm. Tickets cost from £12.
🎤 The Bluetones Acoustic will be at the Black Prince, Northampton tonight from 7.30pm. Get tickets here
Stories from the week
This week we have published a few exclusives concerning the amount being spent on agency staff within our local NHS system, the numbers of sexual assaults and rapes reported in our hospitals and following up a Guardian story we revealed how much West Northamptonshire Council has currently invested in Qatar.
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