Missing from the chamber
Councillor Steven North receives more than £20,000 per year in allowances but has not been showing up
By Sarah Ward
The former leader of East Northamptonshire District Council has been absent from the North unitary for several months and has not attended meetings for which he receives an allowance to chair.
Conservative Steven North, who is councillor for Rushden South, has only attended one of the twelve meetings he was supposed to since November last year and the last full council he went to was eleven months ago.
The one meeting he has attended in person since November was in March, meaning that he will not be suspended by the council. Under the 1972 Local Government Act all local authorities have a six month rule which means that any councillors who do not attend any meetings in half a year will be removed as a councillor.
He was expected at the finance scrutiny committee on Tuesday night but did not show up.
North, who was the leader of the former district council in East Northants for several years and was in charge when it was wound down in April 2021, also works on a part-time basis for Wellingborough MP Peter Bone.
It appears that he has been at work during the time he has been absent from the council chamber, last month sharing an image on Twitter of himself and Peter Bone meeting with a local academy trust.
His absence has been causing concern among councillors. The Rushden Labour group has been tweeting about his absence.
Councillors within the Conservative group have also noted his absence and questions have been asked of the leader Cllr Jason Smithers.
When the authority was set up in April 2021, there were rumours that North had wanted to become the leader. However his fellow Conservatives lined up behind Cllr Jason Smithers, with North being given a member on the executive, in charge of leading growth and regeneration.
However within weeks of the council starting, a multi-million pound legal action between the former East Northants Council and former pub landlord Geoff Monks came to light. The new authority had to pick up the bill and there was concern from many that the lawsuit had been kept secret from the other borough and district councils which had merged to form North Northamptonshire Council.
Instead of the bill being paid by East Northants residents, it was then shared between all residents in North Northants.
In August 2021 North unexpectedly stood down from his cabinet position, stating that he ‘needed a break from the top level of local politics’.
He is currently chair of the strategic planning committee, for which he receives an annual allowance of £7,500. This is on top of his allowance of £14,000 for councillor duties. However he has missed the last two meetings of the committee he chairs.
NN Journal has attempted to contact Cllr North through his council email address as well as a private email address. He does not provide a personal phone number for people to contact him. We also tried Peter Bone’s office, however the number given as his public office is now obsolete.
A spokesman for the council said councillors did not have to explain their absence:
“There is no requirement for a member to have to give explanation, nor a requirement to include any reason in the minutes.”