Friday brief: Shadow unitary leader knew of Monks legal action but was told 'it would be sorted’
Plus the latest on Raunds library, news from Westminster and some events that could brighten your weekend
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The leader in charge of setting up North Northamptonshire Council said he knew of the Monks legal action but was told by the leader of East Northamptonshire District Council it would be sorted before the new authority came into being last April.
Former leader of Kettering Borough Council Cllr Russell Roberts, who was appointed by Government to lead the creation of the unitary council (which would be an amalgamation of the four existing borough councils and county council), says ENDC’s leader Stephen North rang him in December 2020 to tell him of the legal action but insisted it would be settled under his watch.
Last month North Northamptonshire Council made a £4m settlement with former publican Geoff Monks who was wrongly convicted of food safety offences in the late 1990s and 2000s. Monks ended up going to jail after failing to pay his hefty fine, was holed up in a cell close to murderer Ian Huntley and went on to lose his businesses and his health following his treatment by the council.
If the action had been settled before April last year the financial burden would have been borne by East Northamptonshire residents only, but now it has come out of the reserves of the new unitary council. As revealed by NN Journal earlier this week, a note in the 2018/19 accounts shows the authority was confident of resisting Monks multi-million damages claim.
Leader of the Labour opposition Cllr Jean Addison has called for scrutiny into what happened with the legal action and wants to know who knew what and when.
Russell Roberts told NN Journal he was phoned by Cllr North to tell him of the legal action:
“I was aware of it just before Christmas last year. It was a sovereign East Northamptonshire council matter and I was led to believe it was something that was under control and about to be sorted.”
He says the figures he was told about were ‘way, way less’ than the £14m that Monks was claiming from the council.
The following month after Cllr Roberts was told about the claim ENDCs lawyers entered mediation with Monks about a settlement but after finding out about earlier action he had taken against the authority in the mid 2000s they decided to try and get his claim struck out by the high court. By then the matter was moved to June 2021, meaning any financial liability now lay with the new authority.
Cllr Roberts says when he found out about the legal action the former councils were in the midst of the pandemic as well as local government reorganisation.
“It was a heck of a busy year. I left it to them to resolve. It was a very difficult time and this was an issue they had to sort.”
Asked what he thought about how the matter had been handled by ENDC he added: “Probably one day when I write my memoirs I will tell you what I really think about it.”
Cllr Stephen North, who was elected as a new unitary councillor and was appointed to the cabinet, stood down from that role this summer after a secret meeting of the authority asked all 78 councillors to agree to a sum to put to Monks to settle the action.
NN Journal has attempted to contact Cllr North for comment.
For more on this story read former Corby MP Andy Sawford’s article about how the Monks legal action should be heeded by councils up and down the country.
News in brief:
The future of Raunds Library was on the agenda at a heated town council meeting this week. NN Journal previously exclusively revealed that the library could face closure at the end of March if a solution to keep it open can’t be found.
Councillors said they supported the library but needed to take into account the cost to local taxpayers to keep it open. Several options were discussed including the possibility of the town council leasing the building from the unitary authority, moving the books to another building or letting the facility close altogether.
Supporters of the library are disappointed that despite four town councillors also being on the unitary - including Cllr Helen Howell who is a cabinet member responsible for libraries - a solution between the two authorities has not yet been found.
People living in left behind neighbourhoods were 46 per cent more likely to die from Covid than people living in other areas, a new report has revealed.
The research from the All Party Parliamentary Group for left behind neighbourhoods and the Northern Health Science Alliance found that people in these areas worked longer hours and lived shorter lives and suffered from more ill health. Of the 225 neighbourhoods identified as left behind, five are in Northamptonshire. NN Journal recently published a special report looking at health inequalities in these places compared to neighbouring wards.
The Oundle by election will be held on Thursday, February 17 following the resignation of absent Cllr Annabel De Capell Brooke. Candidates have until 4pm next Thursday (January 20) to submit their nomination papers.
The funeral of local historian Mike Ingram took place this week. Read this lovely piece from Hilary Scott at Nenequirer
Northampton North MP Michael Ellis hit the headlines this week after being given the unenviable job of defending the prime minister at an urgent question in parliament on alleged No 10 lockdown parties.
He repeated his claim that Boris Johnson was a man of “integrity and honour”. This came just 24 hours before the PM admitted attending the Downing Street event in May 2020 during the height of lockdown. Although there was food and alcohol, Johnson said he believed it to be a work event.
Within hours of Ellis standing up in the Commons, Labour put out social media posts stating that the MP was spending his time in parliament defending “Johnson’s lockdown parties”
Peter Bone, MP for Wellingborough told parliament yesterday that his office had been vandalised amid anger over the party allegations. The MP provided a photo to the press of the word liar sprayed onto his office window. This is the second time in recent months graffiti has been sprayed onto his window - the last time was thought to be related to the Owen Paterson lobbying scandal.
This week Bone also put forward a Private Members Bill calling for the BBC TV licence to be abolished and replaced by a subscription service.
Independent of the week
Maule Brewing Co
This Northampton based company which creates craft beer and ales says their products are brewed “with only the finest natural ingredients and packaged alive, in both bottle and keg.”
You can purchase products from their website or try one of their lines at their taproom, The Maule Collective bar, on Derngate in Northampton town centre. There is the added bonus of the popular Yellow Bourbon coffee also being served here.
Carers can take part in a short nature walk today at Irchester Country Park from 10.30pm to 12.30pm. Tea and coffee will be provided and the event is hosted by Northamptonshire Carers.
The American Four Tops are on at Corby Cube tonight at 7.30pm.
Ballet Theatre UK is staging the Snow Queen this Saturday at the Deco Theatre in Northampton at 7.30pm.
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