Micromanaged, under pressure, and looking for positions elsewhere
Public announcements of how officers at North Northamptonshire Council are feeling, plus some crime news, Westminster watch and some things for the weekend
It’s been a busy news week and we’ve concentrated on crime for a number of this week’s reports following more knife related incidents in Wellingborough. If you’ve missed any you can go to the archive section on our website where everything we’ve published can be found.
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Enjoy your weekend
The executive of North Northamptonshire Council came under fire from all sides at a full council meeting yesterday.
They were accused of micromanaging ‘brow beaten’ officers and concentrating on the small stuff rather than the bigger picture at the meeting at which the Conservative majority voted to go forward for a bid to add another 21 councillors to the authority and also give themselves an eleven percent pay rise.
The issue of unhappy staff, experienced workers leaving, and high vacancies has dogged the authority since its very early days and does not appear to be improving.
And for the first time a rift between the party seemed to be in evidence as more than a quarter of Conservative councillors stayed away and two who were there (Cllr Scott Brown and Cllr King Lawal) voted against the pay rise.
The pay rise - which was voted for by 37 councillors - comes amidst the railway workers strikes over pay and other strikes looming across different sectors. Boris Johnson’s government has said if pay rises happen across public and private organisations it will lead to higher inflation.
At the meeting Independent councillor Martin Griffiths, who was the former Conservative leader of Wellingborough Borough Council accused the working group who had come up with a suggestion of increasing the current number of councillors from 78 to 99 as ‘living in cloud cuckoo land’. He said the government inspector Max Caller, who wrote a damning report about the county council just weeks before its financial collapse, had recommended 45 councillors.
And he said the authority’s officers were ‘micromanaged, under pressure and brow beaten and looking for positions elsewhere.”
Conservative Cllr Scott Brown, broke ranks and voted against his group on both the pay rise and councillor allowance increase vote. He said his own research had shown that if the council increases to 99, councillors will have the second lowest number of residents per councillor in the country (behind Buckingham).
Fellow Conservative Cllr King Lawal also went against the whip and voted against the independent panel’s pay rise suggestion, saying he could not vote to give himself a pay rise when members of the community he represented were struggling with the cost of living crisis.
Labour Cllr Zoe McGhee told the story of a 16 year old in Corby who had joined a gang to provide food for his family and weeks later had his arm almost severed in a knife attack. She said she could not vote for extra money in her allowances when many families were struggling to eat.
Cllr Lora Lawman, who had chaired the working party looking at the councillor issue, said the extra cash for councillors was needed to encourage younger people into standing for election. This claim was rubbished by many councillors.
She said the remuneration was not discussed and in the financial implications section of the report the costs of the extra councillors was not given.
An additional 21 councillors will set the authority back around an extra quarter of a million pounds at the current council rate.
Independent Jim Hakewill said the authority should not be spending more on elected councillors, rather it should be spending the money on services. He said when speaking to residents about the proposed allowance rise he had received comments such as ‘snouts in the trough’.
Councillors can choose not to take their allowances. The new allowance will see backbench councillors receive more than £12,000 for their duties and the leader’s total remuneration will go above £40,000. Many councillors also have jobs or pensions so the allowance is an additional income.
The Labour group said it will propose a number of 84 councillors to the boundary commission - which makes the final decision - and the Kettering Independent Alliance said its suggestion was for 60.
At the meeting held at Corby Cube former executive member Andy Mercer said he had recently resigned because being a member of the executive had caused his heart rate to increase dramatically and the role was ‘a great deal more than a full time job’.
Leader of the Labour opposition, Cllr John McGhee accused the executive of micromanaging - giving an example of wanting to sign off the images of a new proposed mural for the Hazel Leys estate.
He said: “We were never meant to be full time members. That is why we’ve got some fantastic officers, who get paid very well for doing the job.
“You are tired, you are doing long hours because you are not doing the right stuff. You should be doing the strategic stuff, making sure you are delivering the right services, not micromanaging. That’s why you think you need more members. Do your job right and you won't.”
Leader Cllr Jason Smithers hit back at the suggestion the officers were brow beaten and instead said they work ‘hand in hand’ with the executive.
An audit of the authority’s first year assessed that it was ‘satisfactory’ with highlighted issues of not properly scrutinising the children’s trust.
In the West, the council will discuss its cross-party working group’s recommendation to cut its number of councillors from 93 to between 77 - 82 next week. The outcome will be fed into the Local Government Boundary Commission’s review of council sizes and wards.
Chair of the working group Cllr Suresh Patel said:
“Our current electoral arrangements were imposed by the Structural Changes Order which initially created our council in April last year.
“This is the opportunity for us to make our own assessment of the right number of councillors we need to effectively represent communities, deliver council business and provide efficient governance.”
News in brief
Vandals smashed up East Carlton Hall on Sunday, leading to more than £60,000 worth of damage.
Police were called after a group of men broke into the hall at around 6pm on Sunday in front of many picnickers enjoying Fathers Day.
The police said a 20-year-old man from Corby and a 23-year-old man from Desborough have been released on police bail pending further enquiries. A 17-year-old from Corby was released under investigation pending further enquiries.
Two teenagers were found with drugs, a knife and a loaded firearm on Robin Lane in the Hemingwell area of Wellingborough this month. An 18 and 19 year-old have now been charged with possession with intent to supply Class A drugs, possession of a firearm and possession of a bladed article and remanded in custody. The incident took place on June 17 just days before a stabbing on Fulmar Lane on the estate.
Crimestoppers is doubling the reward to £20,000 for anyone who has information to help solve the murder of a Wellingborough man. Shane Fox, 26, died on December 1, 2018 after being stabbed in Nest farm Crescent, Wellingborough. The suspect was described at the time as a black male in his 20s, wearing a dark-coloured puffa-style jacket with horizontal stitching. Anyone with information can call 0800 555 111 or use the anonymous online form at www.crimestoppers-uk.org,
A relaunch of the Corby Trade Union Council is being considered. How to resurrect the once proactive group will be discussed at a meeting on Monday, July 4th, at Corby's Ex-servicemen's Club, starting at 7pm.
Lee Barron, Regional Secretary for Midlands Trade Union Council, will be speaking at the meeting which is open to any trade unionists who want to find out more about the relaunch plans.
Former Northamptonshire county councillor Ian Morris has sadly died this week following a short illness. As well as being a well known face on the local politics scene he also wrote a number of novels.
Andrea Leadsom spoke in favour of the controversial Bill of Rights this week. The government says the bill, which will replace the Human Rights Act, will among other things, strengthen freedom of speech, reduce burdens on public authorities and limit certain court powers.
The Human Rights organisation Amnesty says the bill 'would strip the public of its most powerful tool to challenge official wrongdoing'.
"This Bill is a giant leap backwards for the rights of ordinary people. Ripping up the Human Rights Act means the public is being stripped of its most powerful tool to challenge wrongdoing by the government and other public bodies. This is not about tinkering with rights, it’s about removing them," Amnesty's chief executive Sacha Deshmukh, said this week.
“From the Hillsborough disaster, to the right to a proper Covid inquiry, to the right to challenge the way police investigate endemic violence against women, the Human Rights Act is the cornerstone of people power in this country. It’s no coincidence that the very politicians it holds to account want to see it fatally weakened."
During a debate on the issue in parliament on Wednesday, MP for Northamptonshire South Andrea Leadsom hit back at Labour's shadow justice secretary Ellie Reeves for suggesting the bill would effectively decriminalise rape by making it harder for women who might have used the Human Rights Act to challenge the police over their decisions on whether to investigate rape cases.
"I am frankly disgusted by what the shadow minister had to say. To suggest that right hon. and hon. Members on the Conservative Benches would be soft on rapists...is a shameful thing to say, and it undermines women’s confidence in our judicial system across this country. Does my right hon. Friend agree that, given the centuries of experience in our UK judicial system, we can be incredibly confident that it is able to represent the interests of everybody in this country? Does he share my sadness that so many on the Opposition Benches would throw away our sovereignty to anyone else who would have it?"
🏳🌈Northampton Pride takes place this Sunday from 11-30pm on the Market Square
🥕There's a farmer's market from 10.30 on Sunday at Rushden Lakes
🚌 Abington Park Museum is holding a transport day on Saturday between 11-4pm. head down for vintage buses, a model railway and stalls
Independent of the week
The Emporium at Wellingborough’s Nene Court
Stocking products from over 50 local creators, The Emporium is the perfect place to find a special gift, discover something unique for your home or simply spend half an hour browsing.