Friday brief: Tight timescales, availability and Christmas given as reasons for Bone recall petition decisions
Political and crime news from the county feature in this week's digest
North Northamptonshire Council has given a number of reasons why it is conducting the recall petition in the way it has, after complaints from residents.
Peter Bone’s constituents in the Wellingborough and Rushden area have until December 19 if they wish to add their name to the recall petition and end the 18 year career of the Tory MP.
He is currently banned from parliament after a standards committee found he had bullied a young male staff member and also indecently exposed himself.
If 7,940 residents (ten per cent) sign the recall petition then he will be removed as an MP and a by-election will take place. Bone could choose to stand again for election if he fancies his chances. He won in 2021 with a majority of more than 17,000.
However there have been some complaints from residents about the locations of the nine signing stations and also the timings of when they are open. There has only been one late night/after hours session schedule for the entire six-week recall period and no weekend sessions, meaning those working full time hours will have to make a visit to their dedicated signing station at lunchtimes.
Also some people living in Wellingborough have been allocated a signing station in Finedon.
NN Journal asked the council about how decisions were made about locations and received the following response:
“When designating the signing places the petition officer was required to comply with The Recall of MPs Act 2015 and associated regulations which specify that the number of signing places in the constituency must be no fewer than 4 and no more than 10. Further, each signing place must be open from 9am until 5pm every weekday for a period of 6 weeks.
“The preferred option was to designate a signing place in each of the unitary council wards situated within the constituency. Where possible, this would be a building that had previously been used as a polling station. However, due to the very tight timescales, a number of the venues that had previously been used as polling stations at elections in the Finedon Ward were unable to commit to their hall or other rooms being used for the petition for the whole six week period, at such short notice, as they already had bookings scheduled into their calendars, including regular engagements.
“Before designating the signing place at Finedon Community Centre, a number of other options were explored. Of the venues considered, the preferred option was a leisure facility as this was located within the ward, however, due to existing commitments that couldn’t be cancelled the venue was unavailable for the whole 6 week period. The remaining venues, situated outside the ward, were either unavailable, not suitable, or felt it was inappropriate for them to engage in the process. As there was no other suitable building within Wellingborough Town, it was necessary to explore other options. Finedon Community Centre was the only venue in the Finedon Ward that was able to accommodate a petition signing place each weekday for the whole of the 6 week period, as is required by law.
“In considering arrangements for extended opening hours, we were mindful of ensuring consistency across all 9 signing places and in some cases, we were restricted by the opening hours and limited resources of venues during the 6 week period.
“We were also presented with a number of challenges, due to pre-booked Christmas activities/events at a number of locations. In some cases, we have had to implement workarounds to accommodate existing bookings or business operations. After a great deal of negotiations, we were able to reach a consensus across all 9 locations for the one day of extended opening hours. Of course, electors are able to register for a postal vote until 5pm on 4th December 2023 or a proxy vote until 5pm on 11th December 2023 should they not be able to attend during opening hours.”
We visited Wellingborough this week and did a quick straw poll of shoppers. Of the ten we surveyed, two people said they had or were attending to sign the petition. (Electoral rules around recall petitions mean the media cannot identify anyone who has signed the petition).
Since picking its parliamentary candidate Gen Kitchen, the Labour Party has set up a dedicated campaign office in Sheep Street, Wellingborough in an effort to be ready for the by-election if it happens.
The East Midlands regional team has decamped to the office, which was yesterday wrapped in Labour Party insignia and former Labour leader Ed Milliband is expected to be there today to rally the troops.
Ana Savage Gunn, who ran in the most recent police, fire and crime commissioner elections, has been selected as the Liberal Democrat candidate for the constituency.
The recall petition closes on the day that Parliament rises for the Christmas break. This means it will be into the new year before it is known whether Peter Bone will be removed from his parliamentary job. A by-election is most likely to happen in February.
News in brief:
The lack of affordable housing in a large Northampton development was criticised this week.
A reserved matters planning application for 273 homes at Dallington Grange was approved by West Northamptonshire Council’s strategic planning committee on Tuesday, however only 16 homes (six per cent) on the site will be affordable. The authority’s planning policy is for 30 percent of homes to be affordable.
Outline planning permission for the development was granted by the West’s predecessor council Northampton borough in 2021 when it was agreed that ten per cent would be affordable. The remaining four percent shortfall for this site will be built elsewhere in Dallington Grange.
At the meeting deputy Labour leader Bob Purser said:
“I’m appalled that we’re being given an application that is so far away from our housing policy. We’ve got 4,000 people on our housing waiting list, 600 families in temporary accommodation- we are losing 50 affordable houses in this application.
“That’s 50 people who will be confined to being homeless because we are making the decision as recommended. At what point can we ensure that the housing we’re providing meets the needs of the people living in this area?“We have a policy crisis – it is just not working. I really cannot support another application that doesn’t provide affordable housing, let alone social housing which is equally important.”
Conservative cllr André González De Savage said he was “not happy at all” about the provision of affordable housing being “shoved” into a “corner somewhere”. He said at the meeting:
“We need to create communities and not ghettos. I think it’s a real Pandora’s box we’ve inherited from past councils. We really want a good, successful, healthy, vibrant community going forward- we desperately need the [affordable] homes now.”
Nadia Lincoln, Local Democracy Reporter
A University of Northampton student has been found guilty of the murder of another student this week.
Melvin Lebaga-Idubor, 20, stabbed Kwabena Osei-Poku,19, who died on New South Bridge Road just outside the Waterside Campus on the evening of April 23. Both had been dealing drugs on campus and on the night of his death Kwabena had a quantity of cannabis stolen from him by his murderer.
Lebaga-Idubor will be sentenced at a later date.
The Labour Party has chosen Rosie Wrighting as its candidate for the Kettering Constituency. Rosie will go up against long standing Conservative MP Phillip Hollobone in the election, which is now being touted as May next year, by political commentators.
🎬 Documentary film group DOCS+ will be showing 20 Days in Mariupol, directed by Ukrainian director Mstylav Chernov on Sunday at 2pm at Queen Victoria Hall in Oundle. The film will be followed by a talk by Russia expert Keir Giles, a senior consulting fellow at Chatham House, plus a panel discussion and a direct video link to a frontline bunker in Ukraine featuring an interview with Dr Jade McGlynn, a London based historian, who is researching the war first-hand.
Tickets cost £8 and are available on the door.