Key prosecution witness in Mackintosh trial stands down as councillor due to ill health
It's our regular Friday brief
A Northampton councillor who was the main witness in the political donations trial has stood down as a councillor due to ill health.
Conservative leader of West Northamptonshire Council Jonathan Nunn announced yesterday that Cllr Suresh Patel, who was former chair of the Northampton South Conservative Association, is stepping back from his political commitments due to ill health.
Mr Patel was first elected to the borough council in the mid 2000s and was also a county councillor before being elected to the new West unitary councillor in 2021.
In the email, Cllr Nunn said:
“Due to serious ill health issues and medical advice to reduce stress, councillor Suresh Patel has decided to step down from his commitments and political positions at West Northants Council. Suresh is currently resting and recuperating with his family. Over the years, he has served the communities of Duston, St James and Hunsbury.
“We wish Suresh a speedy return to good health and thank him for his dedication to the Conservative party, the councils on which he has served and above all to local residents and communities.”
Cllr Patel was chair of the democracy and standards committee, but has not been seen at a council meeting since the Warwick Crown Court trial in November, at which Sixfields businessman Howard Grossman claimed that as David Mackintosh’s election agent Cllr Patel, had advised him in 2014 to make donations to Mackintosh’s election fund via third parties.
Cllr Patel denied the allegations in the courtroom and said he had not met the businessman until after any donations had been made.
The jury found that Mackintosh and Grossman were both innocent of the charges brought against them by the crown prosecution service.
The heat has been rising on Cllr Patel following the disclosure by independent councillor Paul Clark at the most recent full council meeting of information he heard in the courtroom regarding payments to a conservative bank account from a charity Cllr Patel was involved with.
NN Journal understands that during 2016 payments of at least £22,250 were made into a bank account belonging to the Northampton Borough Council Conservative Group from Patel Samaj of Northampton - a Hindu charity of which Cllr Patel was a trustee and which is registered to his home address. Payments were then made back out of the account to Cllr Patel.
The account, which was managed by Cllr Patel, is where the Conservative members paid a monthly £40 fee which would go towards local party expenses and costs.
This week Cllr Clark has reported concerns about the payments to the Northamptonshire Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner and also to the Electoral Commission and The Charity Commission.
Councillor Clark was elected as a Conservative councillor in 2021 but became independent earlier this year after annoying colleagues by asking questions about the latest deal with the town’s football club in which the council has agreed to sell land to the club’s owners.
NN Journal contacted Cllr Patel for comment but was unable to reach him.
News in brief
The GMB is balloting Northampton members on an offer made by Veolia following refuse workers deciding to take industrial action if their pay is not improved.
Some workers who collect the town’s rubbish in Northampton are currently on just 8p more than the minimum wage, with drivers paid £12.50 an hour.
The staff will be leaving Christmas rubbish uncollected if the French company, which has a long term contract with West Northamptonshire Council, does not up the hourly rate paid to staff, many of whom worked all throughout Covid to keep the town clean.
A major application for a biogas plant on nearly nine hectares of open countryside has been turned down by West Northamptonshire Council. A total of 193 letters of objection were written to the council asking the committee to refuse the plans.
Residents of Evenley, a small village south of Brackley, said they were worried that they wouldn’t be able to stop lorries from using country roads, the large facility being an eyesore to the rural environment, and the smells from the process of digesting manures to create the biogas.
The anaerobic digestion unit was proposed to be built to the east of the A43, close to the Barleymow roundabout in between Evenley and Croughton- only 280m from the closest group of homes. The plans have been put forward by Acorn Bioenergy Ltd, which recently received permission to build a similar plant in Courteenhall, east of the M1.
The biogas site was rejected by the planning committee on the grounds of traffic, odour and the visual impact on the countryside. Cllr Danielle Stone said: “I really welcome the application but it’s in completely the wrong location. I don’t understand how it can possibly be allowed so close to residents.”
Report by local democracy reporter Nadia Lincoln
The final phase of a Corby development is to go ahead as North Northamptonshire Council (NNC) has decided to waive the £2m ‘roof tax’ payment owed by the developer. Little Stanion, an estate which has been under construction for over a decade, is still yet to start its last stage of work.
JME Developments asked NNC to remove their obligation to pay £11,000 for every home they sold back into the public purse and an ‘up-lift sum’ which would contribute 34 per cent of the additional house sale profits back into the community. The final phase will see another 99 houses, a village hall and a multi-use games area (MUGA) for the community.
The developer cited the project as being “financially unviable” if the costs remained and warned that it would be largely shut down if the council did not approve the modifications by the end of 2023. The council agreed to remove the s106 roof tax payments in a planning meeting on December 6.
The village hall was supposed to be completed after planning permission was approved in 2018, but developers say that they are looking to finish the site by 2028. The money to build the village hall and MUGA would come from the sale of the 114 houses for which planning permission has already been granted.
By Nadia Lincoln
Labour hopeful Gen Kitchen unveiled a series of pledges at a launch event yesterday. Potholes, fixing the NHS, knife crime, town centre regeneration and putting more cash into residents pockets were her five pledges at the event held at the Victoria Centre in Wellingborough. The town’s MP Peter Bone is currently under a recall petition, with constituents being given the opportunity to remove him from office following a damning parliamentary report in which he was found to have bullied a young staffer. The petition closes on Tuesday.
We will have a more in depth report about the Labour Party and its chances in Northants next week
🍂 The Summer Leys Winter Wildlife Wander is happening tomorrow from 10.20am to 12.30pm. Ticket information here.
🎨 There’s a lecture on Elizabeth and Gabriel Rossetti this morning from 10.15am at Northampton Museum and Art Gallery.