Can You Catch Your Bus Today?

Your bus may be axed today – what have you done about it?

More than a dozen bus services will be withdrawn after Northamptonshire County Council ended their subsidies. Routes across the north of the county being axed from July 22 include those covering Kettering, Wellingborough and their surrounding villages. They include the Stagecoach 34 (Brambleside – Kettering – Pytchley – Little Harrowden – Wellingborough – Berrymoor) and 34A (Brambleside – Kettering town centre – Leisure centre) from Monday to Saturday.  The Centrebus 35 Great Cransley – Loddington – Thorpe Malsor – Kettering service (Tuesday, Thursday and Friday only) will also be withdrawn. The Saturday Centrebus W8 Wellingborough – Wollaston – Bozeat service is also being scrapped. All journeys from Bozeat on to Northampton between Mondays and Fridays will also be withdrawn.

Around 40 of us in Wellingborough brought the town to a standstill yesterday to protest about the loss of the 34 bus; several police officers turned out too.  We were on Look East that evening and on Northampton Radio throughout the day!  This was the second protest against the withdrawal of the 34 bus organised by a group of pensioners calling themselves Action 34.  The group haven’t finished protesting yet!

But much more needs to be done across the county, are there any other plans for action?  Please do let us know and we will help to publicise it with you.

Action 34 – Save Our Bus Services

A community group called Action 34 are trying to save their bus that runs between Wellingborough and Kettering via Little Harrowden, Orlingbury and Pytchley. As from Saturday the 21st July, the service is due to finish. The 34 bus currently serves the Kingsway, Henshaw and Barnwell roads in Wellingborough and without this bus, these areas will no longer have a service in the town.

Action 34 are organising a gathering of people to demonstrate that a lot of people rely on this bus service to get them to town and back. They are hoping that as many people as possible to meet up with them on Friday 20th July at 10am in Church Street, Wellingborough.

More than a dozen bus services will be withdrawn next month after Northamptonshire County Council ended their subsidies. Routes across the north of the county being axed from July 22 include those covering Kettering, Wellingborough and their surrounding villages. They include the Stagecoach 34 (Brambleside – Kettering – Pytchley – Little Harrowden – Wellingborough – Berrymoor) and 34A (Brambleside – Kettering town centre – Leisure centre) from Monday to Saturday.  The Centrebus 35 Great Cransley – Loddington – Thorpe Malsor – Kettering service (Tuesday, Thursday and Friday only) will also be withdrawn. The Saturday Centrebus W8 Wellingborough – Wollaston – Bozeat service is also being scrapped. All journeys from Bozeat on to Northampton between Mondays and Fridays will also be withdrawn.

This is part of huge cuts to services across Northamptonshire due to take place this weekend due to the end of Northamptonshire Country Council subsidies – see the county council website for details of all affected bus routes.  A spokesman for Northamptonshire County Council said: “Faced with an unprecedented increase in demand for council services, coupled with significant reductions in funding, tough decisions were needed in order to deliver a balanced budget. We have had no choice but to make the difficult decision to review funding of all non-statutory services. This includes removing all money paid to support subsidised bus services across Northamptonshire.”

Dorothy Webb, from Action 34, commented: “The group will be there from about ten in the morning as long as our bus is not late, it would be nice if people from elsewhere in the town, including those in the Queensway and Hemmingwell, came along to give us some support. At the moment their buses are not affected, it just means the rest of us will not be able to get a bus, and we do not think that is right.  Lets all stick together in this and help each other, because there will be people who are going to be stuck at home and cannot get out, because there will be no bus.”

Northamptonshire County Council has chosen not to honor it’s responsibilities to provide public transport for local people that need it.  This abandons some of the most vulnerable people in our community, the disabled, the elderly, the ones that don’t have cars.  The county council are doing it to save a few quid, and if you look at the budgets, it is only a few quid, but it is disproportionate to the effect it will have on local people.  No one in Wellingborough (or Northamptonshire) should be ‘stuck at home’ without transport.  Please do support Action 34 on Friday 20th July, 10am in Church Street, Wellingborough.  We hope to see you there.

Written by Jonathan Hornett on behalf of Northamptonshire Community Voices with quotes taken from an article in the Northants Telegraph.

South Northamptonshire Community Voices Have Their Say

The South Northamptonshire Community Voices Forum was organised to give people in South Northamptonshire the opportunity to find out more about proposed changes to local government and to have their say.  The evening started with a display illustrating the proposed changes.  We then listened to talks from local councillors and other community activists, outlining those changes and proposing other possible reforms.  Discussions were then opened to all to contribute their views, and most people joined in.  The main points put forward by the members of the forum were:

  • Northamptonshire as a County has a proud history. What consideration is being given to our ‘county identity’ when the county’s Council is disbanded?
  • It’s suggested that the County Council has debts of over £1billion and those will be transferred to the new authorities. Without drastic cuts to service provision how can the new authorities possibly service that debt? A clean slate is essential if the reform is to lead to any meaningful improvements to public service without doubling or trebling Council Taxes.
  • Northamptonshire Council Taxes have been around the tenth cheapest in England. We get what we pay for.
  • Those responsible for the county’s financial crisis should be barred from future office. If they were directors of a bankrupt company they could be held personally liable for the debts caused by their financial mismanagement.
  • What about existing contracts with companies providing councils with out-sourced services? Will they be compensated when a disbanded council cancels a long-term contract? Will those same companies then be signed up to provide exactly the same services for the replacement council?
  • The reform decisions have already been taken. The consultation is a charade. This is not a democratic process. All we are waiting for is the existing councils’ plans for carving up the county’s services amongst themselves; rearranging the furniture on the deck of the Titanic leaving exactly the same crew and bandsmen on board.
  • Those at the heart of writing the reform plans are precisely those who have been involved in day to day service provision over the last few years. With the best will in the world how can they be expected to do it differently and achieve cost-saving withimproved service provision withoutsignificant rises in Council Tax?
  • The questionnaire is being put forward as the means to allow the public to have their say. However it is designed to precisely prevent the collection of meaningful public opinion.
  • As of last Friday, after being online four weeks, only 2500 questionnaire responses had been submitted. That’s much less than a 1% response from households and businesses in Northamptonshire.
  • Can we prevent Northants County Council from selling off its assets and recover as wrongful disposals those assets already lost, eg Angel Sq, sold and leased back with very negative long-term value for money.
  • Today’s district and urban councils each cover predominantly rural or urban areas with very different priorities for their residents. Amalgamation will create problems when spending council taxes; eg subsidised rural transport versus profitable urban bus services.
  • Out-sourced services are provided by companies that must provide shareholder value. When the shareholders are from outside the county local shops and businesses do not get the value when those profits are spent. With in-sourced services, bin collectors, home care visitors etc etc their salaries are spent within the community and together they can make a significant contribution to the local economy.
  • In the consultation there’s no mention and recognition of the contribution made by the charitable sector.
  • In practical, every-day matters it is the parish and town councils that have dealings with residents, see their communities’ problems first-hand and probably have constructive ideas about how to solve them. Though they are being consulted their contributions are generally under-valued; do we know if the roles played by parish and town councils actually feature in the reform arrangements?
  • Central Government’s requirement for all new unitary authorities to have a population greater than 300,000 is not supported by facts. What evidence does the Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government have to say that the dozen or so English  unitary authorities with over 30,000 population are performing so much better than the 43 others? Northampton alone as a unitary, with a population of 228000, would rank 22/55 and West Northamptonshire without Northampton would still rank 35/55. If size truly mattered, Northamptonshire County Council, population of 745,000 and receiving 70% of our Council Tax, wouldn’t have any financial problems. It’s clearly not size that ensures the success of a Unitary Authority, more likely almost entirely dependent on the change management expertise of a Chief executive and the top management team.

Contributions from community voices during the open forum included:

  • Jim Lynch, Towcester Town councilor and ex-mayor, started the open forum by proposing that the rural areas should be together (Daventry and South Northants.)
  • Chris Lofts, also a Towcester Town Councillor and also a district councillor, replied to Jim Lynch, stating that he too was concerned Police & money & councillors may be used more to help in Northampton, taking away from South Northants and Daventry.
  • Mike Hillsfeels questionnaire biased to splitting the county into two unitaries.  He thinks that Northampton should take in the areas it is expanding to, like Nottingham city unitary, with surrounding area as a separate unitary.  Jonathan Hornett added – Bedford has same.
  • A Northampton parish councillor: Stated that she does not want to lose “county identity” or the history of Northampton. She also wants the new unitary councils to prevent current councillors from standing again, stating that they are the ones that have caused the collapse of Northamptonshire County Council and are likely to make the new unitaries to fail.
  • Jonathan Hornett said that the commissioners in charge of the reforms are meeting with various local groups including Save Northants Services and other voluntary organistations. He also feels the consultation should be “non-politically managed” and questioned whether the debt be pooled as well as the reserves.
  • Mr Newton asked how much of the £1B debt is linked with PFI & the new university and stated that Northamptonshire simply over borrowed. He is concerned about how future big spending on Highways & social care will work and gave the example that Rutland has a Council, but Education & Social care still fall under Leicestershire.
  • Jim Lynch said we need to start with a clean sheet with new service providers, central government should pay off existing contractors.
  • Jonathan Hornett questioned how long are current contractors’contracts for? He pointed out that without changes, not much is saved. Waste collection and park services in Wellingborough are carried out in partnership with Norse who now also deal with Daventry – he asked who will run services with new unitaries?
  • Harry Mellor stated that the total financial mismanagement by Northamptonshire County Council is because they didn’t raise council tax to keep services, so boasted cheap council tax to win elections. The concern is how much council tax will rise with the new unitary councils?  Harry continued saying that if the council is “bankrupt” the same rules should apply to the council & councillors as in personal & business bankruptcy.  Who will decide who/what/will go – what will happen and who will be left to run the council.  Will ALL the councillors be replaced at the new election for the unitaries.  Harry concluded that there is a need for a complete rethink of all the services & contracts; and a need  for joined up thinking for all services.
  • Jim Lynch implied that “officers should be held to account” and wanted to know who is doing the scrutiny and that they need to be independent and need to plan for increasing social care demands.
  • Another voice asked about “missing money” and questioned the efficiency of paying for cheaper companies to do the work when we are getting less service.
  • Jonathan Hornett said that a speaker from one of the Wellingborough Forums stated that “I don’t care how many unitaries there are; all I care about is that decent services are delivered!” Jonathan also suggested that we want the services all brought back in house!
  • Another anonymous voice pointed out how can private companies do the service for less than in house by reducing pay & conditions for staff. He then asked “Do we have any mechanism of holding Northampton council to account?”
  • Denise Donaldson said “The people need a say before any other town or county assets are sold, as they are ours, not theirs.

To sum up, the evening was a success and that everyone present gained from taking part in it.  This blog post was agreed to be shared widely by attendees of the forum, to put forward the views and contributions made by members of the South Northamptonshire community at this event.  Please do share this further.

The South Northamptonshire Community Voices forum was organised by Harry Mellor and introduced and chaired by Jonathan Hornett. Speakers that talked about local government reform were – Chris Lofts from the Liberal Democrats who is a South Northants District and Town Councillor, and Denise Donaldson from the Green Party, who stood in last year’s General Election.

Change of Venue for Tonight’s Forum

Due to a fire at St Lawrence’s Church, we have changed the venue for tonight’s Community Voices Forum to Towcester Town Hall.  It’s situated in the centre of town and is ours for the evening.  The church has arranged this for us.

We have the large hall at the main entrance, immediately below the clock tower (see pic) which is currently used in the mornings by a playgroup.  There’s no public address system and no roving microphone so we don’t need a runner but we will need to speak up.

The agenda and all timings remain the same.  See you all later.

South Northants Community Voices Forum Agenda

Monday 16th June, 7pm.
St Lawrence’s Church, 88 Watling Street, Towcester. NN12 6YY

7.00 Exhibition ‘Local Government Reform Consultation’ – Displayed around the church

7.30 Welcome and Introductions

7.35 What is Northamptonshire Community Voices

7.40 What we hope to achieve – tonight’s Agenda

7.45 The Reorganising Proposal

7.50 Why Change and How?

7.55 Voicing Local Support

8.00 Open Forum – have your say about local government changes

8.40 Summary – your points highlighted.

8.50 Next Steps

9.00 Thank you for coming!

You can also join in the forums at northamptonshire.communityvoices.org.uk
Keep updated via facebook at facebook.com/communityvoicesforum
and via Twitter at twitter.com/CommVoices

South Northamptonshire Community Voices Forum

The consultation timing for the proposed restructuring of Northamptonshire’s councils, is very short indeed. Public comments must be submitted by 22 July. Therefore if there is any strength of feeling community voices need to be raised right now.  To facilitate this, we are holding a further Community Voices Forum on the other side of the county; in South Northamptonshire.  We will have the consultation documents on display, with talks about the proposals and further options; then an open forum to get opinions from the community.

The ‘South Northamptonshire Community Voices Forum’ will be held at St Lawrence’s Church (off High Street) Chantry House, 88 Watling Street, Towcester. NN12 6YY on Monday 16th July from 7.00pm – 9.00pm.  The point of this forum is solely going to be about whether we accept the government decision to split the county into two or whether we demand different solutions because South Northamptonshire’s mostly rural communities have different needs than Northampton Town.  A popular option could be that a three way split is what is required. 

Northamptonshire County Council has failed

A government inspection says that Northamptonshire County Council has problems with the way it is run and problems paying for the services it provides to residents. These problems can only be solved by a new way of working by having single, one-stop, full-service authorities. The overall objective of setting up these Unitary Authorities is to create a more efficient public service with lower costs than today.  

The proposal presented to all the county’s district councils was to create three new authorities, one for one for Corby, East Northamptonshire, Kettering and Wellingborough, one for Northampton, the largest town in England, and one which combines South Northamptonshire and Daventry Districts.

Is two unitary councils going to deliver the best outcome for the people of Northants?

The government prefers a different split, just two authorities, one for the borough/district council areas of Northampton Town, Daventry and South Northamptonshire and one for the rest of the county.

Either way it will mean the end of the South Northamptonshire & Cherwell Districts’ cost-sharing arrangement – a divorce that is already in full progress. 

Whether it is into two or three authorities the break up has to happen because of the County Council’s problems and the government is committed to take into account the views of the general public as well as the voluntary sector, current councils, the health, police, fire and ambulance services and local businesses. 

Whatever happens, Council Taxes will rise if only because, as one of the country’s lowest council tax counties, for years we have quite simply not been paying our way. 

It’s your voice that needs to be heard

So do we accept the government decision to split the county into two or should we demand that South Northamptonshire’s mostly rural communities have different needs than Northampton Town, so a three way split or other solution is required.  Have your say in Towcester on Monday 16th July and fill in the consultation on local government online at www.futurenorthants.co.uk or in your local library before the 22nd July.

Expert says unitary plans for Northamptonshire are ‘lunacy’

A local government expert has described the proposal to replace Northamptonshire’s eight councils with two unitary authorities as ‘lunacy’. Colin Copus, who is a local government lecturer at De Montfort University in Leicester, said the restructuring of local governance in Northants being ordered by central government will not be a solution to the county’s problems.

It is possible that Northamptonshire’s eight councils will be replaced by two large unitaries after former Secretary of State Savid Javid declared in April that the two-tier system had to change following the financial failings of Northamptonshire County Council. A countywide public consultation is currently being carried out about the two unitary proposal.

Mr Copus said: “It is lunacy to replace the councils with two unitaries. “This gives the government the ability to say we are dealing with this.  But the unitaries will be too big.  If being bigger is better than why did the situation occur at Northamptonshire County Council?”

He added: “The reasoning often put forward for unitaries is that if there are fewer councils it will be cheaper.  But research over the past 50 years has shown that this is never the outcome.  The responsibilities to provide the services don’t go away.  We need financial changes to stop more Northamptonshires happening.  If you restructure you still have the same problems.  The solution is to give local government a raft of new financial freedoms.”

The academic said the 40 per cent funding cuts from central government to local governments since 2010 had been part of NCC’s problems along with a number of other issues including mismanagement of budgets.  He said the current funding system for local government which is made up of central government grants, business rates and local council tax levies was also part of the problem.

He said: “We have the narrowest range of funding in Europe and once you turn down the levels as has happened with central government grants then you start to get big problems.  Northamptonshire may be the first council to reach tipping point but I don’t think it will be the last.”

The eight Northamptonshire councils have until August 31 to submit a joint bid to Secretary of State for Local Government James Brokenshire.  Currently all are saying they will act together and submit a bid for two unitary authorities. Northamptonshire residents have until July 22 to voice their opinion on the proposed unitary restructure.

Find out more about the consultation here, have your say in our online forum here, then visit www.futurenorthants.co.uk or fill in a paper copy available from libraries and council offices.

BY SARAH WARD, LOCAL DEMOCRACY REPORTER, NORTHANTS TELEGRAPH

Read more at: https://www.northantstelegraph.co.uk/news/expert-says-unitary-plans-for-northamptonshire-are-lunacy-1-8548125Read more at: https://www.northantstelegraph.co.uk/news/expert-says-unitary-plans-for-northamptonshire-are-lunacy-1-8548125

Wellingborough’s Community Voices Talk About Council Reform

Another lively forum was had on Monday with plenty of new faces attending. It was held to continue the debate on our New Town Council and to discuss the sale of the Daylight Centre; but following the launch of the Local Government Reform Consultation, Future Northants, the debates were dominated by discussions about changes to local councils in Northamptonshire!

Marion Turner-Hawes started the evening off with an update from last week’s workshop and talked about some of the key points from Dr Simon Duffy’s presentation.  She compared Northamptonshire to Iceland, stating that Iceland may be of a similar population to Northamptonshire, but there democracy was far more representative – you can see Dr Simon Duffy’s presentation here.

Jonathan Ekins then updated us about the Local Government Reform Consultation, urging people to have their say.  He made the point that the government wants to know the views of local people and stated that they would not go down the road of two unitary councils if it was not supported by local people.

To quote the consultation “All eight authorities in Northamptonshire are working on a proposal for the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government that “must command a good deal of local support” and so stakeholders across the county have an opportunity to comment before a final proposal is submitted.”  Find out more about this consultation here.

In his capacity as a parish councillor, Brian Skittrall was invited to talk about what responsibilities Wellingborough Town Council could have, being that most of the Borough Council’s functions would be taken by the new unitary.  Brian stated that the Town Council would be there to provide services like parks and open spaces, and leisure facilities, but most importantly it would be there to democratically represent Wellingborough.

This led nicely into a debate about the future of public buildings currently owned by the borough council, including the Queens Hall which is home to the Daylight Centre.  To ensure that the Daylight Centre is not sold off by this or future councils, it was proposed that Queens Hall be transferred into a community trust, be that to the new town council or otherwise.  Please note that there are currently no plans at the Borough Council of Wellingborough to sell the Daylight Centre or Queens Hall.  Everyone was in agreement that it be transferred into a community trust (even those with four paws).

To finish the evening off, we voted on the issues covered in the forum.  The results (of those who voted) were:

For a new Town Council:  Yes – 11  No – 0  Don’t know – 6

For voting/type of Town Council:  Party political as we currently have – 0                                   Party proportional representation – 4   Non party political – 12

For two new Unitary Councils:  Yes – 0  No – 13  Don’t know – 4

For transferring to community trusts:  Yes – 17  No – 0  Don’t know – 0

Thank you to everyone who took part, your voices will be heard.

 

Our next Community Voices Forum

Our next Community Voices Forum is at Glamis Hall, on Monday (25th June) from 7pm.  It is being held to continue the debate on our New Town Council and to discuss the sale of the Daylight Centre.  The format is very simple ‘topic proposed and debated’, just like the on-line forums.  These are set up to inform local councilors of the communities views.  We will also have a community speaker in to talk about the work that they and there organisation does.

We had a great turnout of 40 for our first forum in Wellingborough, so we are not stopping there! See reports on our blog. If you were there, I trust that you found it as empowering and as energising as we did to have your voice heard!

Click to see larger image
Click to see enlarged image of agenda

Glamis Hall have kindly offered to continue hosting our forums, and have suggested we stage them on Mondays to avoid noise from the main hall. Our next forum this Monday does of course come very quickly after last weeks workshop and it is only 2 and a half weeks since the last forum; but we felt that we need to have another quickly to respond to the proposed ‘New Town Council’ and ‘Two Unitary Councils’ as consultations are now underway and deadlines to respond are coming up fast! It is vital that the Borough Council of Wellingborough and Northamptonshire County Council hears our voices about this.   Please do also continue add your view on our online forum.

Community Voices is being set up across Northants as an independent, non-party political, community forum that will constructively enable residents, communities and businesses to fully take part and contribute to the decisions councils are making in Northamptonshire, particularly in reference to the transition to unitary councils.

So if you want to share your opinions about Wellingborough and Northamptonshire, join us at our second open forum in Wellingborough on Monday 25th June at 7pm in Glamis Hall. Entry is free, there is car parking and refreshments are available.  See you there!

Video of WORKSHOP PRESENTATION BY DR SIMON DUFFY

Northamptonshire Community Voices invited Dr Simon Duffy to share his thoughts on “Northamptonshire, can we change direction? Could this be an opportunity for an alternative ‘Citizen Led Approach’?”  Here is the presentation that he did for us at our workshop on Thursday 21st June.

You can also see all of the slides in this presentation by clicking here.

Filmed and published to YouTube, with thanks, by Lou Armitt