Another Car Park To Be Lost In Wellingborough

A town centre car park in Wellingborough will be lost to make way for 12 flats.

The one and two bedroom flats on the Doddington Road site, which will not have any of their own parking spaces, were approved by Wellingborough council’s planning committee last night (Wednesday).

The decision comes after the council controversially approved in April a plan to build more than 100 homes on town centre car park Jackson Lane, despite widespread protests from traders and users.

The plan to build the flats in Doddington Road was given a mixed reception by councillors with some in favour and others opposed.

Labour councillor Tim Maguire said: “I was very critical of the council a few months ago for not delivering housing needs.

“This car park is never full and it is an empty piece of ground.

“It is ideal, we are crying out for two bedroom properties.”

And Conservative councillor  Barry Graves said the plan would  help with the regeneration of the town centre.

The 820 metre square site, which sits in front of Croyland gardens, has 30 car parking spaces.

Two residents who live near to the car park, and ward councillor Val Anslow who lives nearby, objected to the application.

Mrs Belson who has lived in Doddington Road for 20 years said parking is an issue in the area.

She said: “Not only are the council proposing to lose a valuable car park, they want to build flats in its place with no parking facilities.

“It is fanciful to think people who rent or live in one or two bed flats have no cars.

“What about visitors to the flats? Are they coming on bikes.”

Jonathan Hornett, from Community Voices, said: “From the responses of both the Labour and Conservative councillors, it’s clear that these councillors, who all live outside of the town, really do not want people to visit or work in Wellingborough.

“This is yet another clueless sell of of public land that will never be replaced; yet again scant regard has been taken on board regarding local residents concerns, and yet more car parking spaces will be lost. It is truly mind boggling how badly our town is being run.”

Seven councillors on the committee voted to approve the plan and three voted against.

Councillors Voting to Destroy Northamptonshire

Councillors will this week be voting at Borough, District and County level on proposals for reforming local government in Northamptonshire. The outcome is predictable: the county will be split into two ‘unitary’ authorities. Will their decision ultimately be financially disastrous for residents and businesses across the region?

For whatever cause, austerity, ineptitude or sheer bad luck, Northamptonshire, like many other councils in the country, is failing its people. This is not political failure, though politics is in play, it is an altogether bigger thing where the dynamics of an ever changing population meet an absence of planning foresight and where scarcity of funds combine with a local government generally lacking the ability and agility to respond to rapidly evolving circumstances.

Local government is responsible for delivering the essentials for the wellbeing of their community; responsive and trustworthy emergency services, good health and welfare, high quality education, safe roads with reliable public transport and, above all, positive civic vision and leadership. In the face of the county’s catastrophic financial failure Northamptonshire’s elected representatives are now having to decide how these public services are to be provided in the future.

The Secretary of State imposed strict conditions when he ordered the reorganization of Northamptonshire’s councils. As Councillors prepare to vote it is essential to review those conditions starting with the unjustified instruction to sever the county into two simply because the new authority areas must contain at least 300,000 resident. In fact only eleven of UK’s 55 unitary authorities have a population over 300,000. Though population size probably does matter it need not be the sole deciding factor. Slicing the county into two ignores the precise needs of the differing communities that will find themselves in the care of a new single authority. The councillors will stand up and say no to this split when they vote?

Condition number two is the requirement to reorganise and reform on the basis of a police authority area. But police authority areas are irrelevant to those communities on the county’s fringes. Whether it is access to shops, hospitals, workplaces or schools it is people and places that matter not the jurisdiction of a Chief Constable or Police and Crime Commissioner. Will Councillors agree that today’s bobby’s beats should shape tomorrow’s?

Third is the requirement that the proposal should have solid public support. The recent consultation exercise clearly failed in that respect. Fewer than 1% of all residents responded. To put it differently, just about 2% of Northamptonshire households gave an opinion. Will the councilors claim to have solid public backing for their decision?

More generally, and barely mentioned other than in the context of the potential for increased tax income, is the planned developments that swing through Northamptonshire following an arc stretching from Oxford to Cambridge. This proposed major infrastructure project involves new rail and road links servicing a corridor of interconnected new and expanded villages loosely associated with our existing towns. This is development on a vast scale with tens of thousands of new homes sprawling across virgin countryside. The new authorities are going to have to cope with implementing that ambition but there’s no mention in the proposal of any strategy or tactic to handle the social and community planning needs of such a major undertaking. What will voting councilors have to say on this?

It is current thinking that Town and Parish Councils could deliver more of the truly local services. Expanding this tier of government is at odds with the aim of achieving economies of scale through bringing all services under one organisational umbrella. Is that going to be approved by the elected representatives?

Last but not least is the proposal’s preoccupation with cash. It obsesses about paying for the reforms, about starting with a clean slate or not, and about the financial benefits of reorganisation. What is never mentioned is the quite evident dearth of talent able to drive through reform. Today’s council leadership teams are valued and rewarded as if they were captains of industry. But we have seen that high salaries do not equate to visionary and inspiring leaders. Where in the next few months, whether from the ashes of existing councils or elsewhere, are the leadership teams able to design, manage and deliver a democratic process of change, teams with vision capable of driving through the reforms necessary for building a solid foundation for a sustainable financial future? Will today’s voting councillors know the answer to this fundamental human resources question?

It is said that people get the government they deserve. One thing is for sure; the people of Northamptonshire will soon know what they are going to get. For what the people of Northamptonshire are about to receive, should they be truly thankful?

Written by Harry Mellor originally for the Northamptonshire Green Party

Proposals for the future of governance in Northamptonshire now online

Following a ‘so called’ county-wide consultation exercise, a proposed submission has been drafted by all eight authorities in Northamptonshire. This will be discussed by councillors at meetings across the county, week commencing 27 August.

Northamptonshire County Council’s councillors will meet on Tuesday 28 August.  Details of your borough/district council’s meeting will be on their own websites.

Consultation results and proposal

All eight authorities in Northamptonshire have been asked by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government to submit a proposal that meets the following ridiculous criteria:

  • A single county-wide unitary is explicitly excluded as an option (why?)
  • Each new proposed authority must have a population substantially in excess of 300,000 (why?)
  • The proposal must be based on existing council boundaries (why?)

In addition to the criteria set out by the Secretary of State, Government has stated:

  • Only one proposal will be accepted, not a range of options (to give the councillors no choices)
  • It must demonstrate clear potential for savings (not in the near future)
  • It must command a good deal of local support (which it hasn’t)
  • Due consideration should be given to recommendations in the Best Value Report
  • Any solution should prioritise the Government’s wider housing and growth agenda (ie Northamptonshire must build even more houses)
  • Extensive consultation must be carried out (which it really has not been)

Please note, if two or more councils decide to submit the proposal (ie not all have to agree) it will be sent to the government on 31 August, signed by those who have decided to do so.  This simply looks like a fix, local and national government are not looking after the interests of the people of Northamptonshire; they are looking for a short term cheap fix (which the proposals certainly are not)

Northamptonshire report to propose splitting region into two unitaries

A report on the future of the debt-ridden Northamptonshire region due to be published this afternoon will likely recommend replacing all eight local authorities with two unitary councils.

Public consultation results and the report itself will both be made online at 3pm this afternoon across all eight council websites – but politicians are already predicting that proposals will recommend establishing a unitary to govern the north of the county and another to look over the west.

If approved by Whitehall, this would represent one of the biggest local government shake-ups in the past 40 years.

According to the Northamptonshire Telegraph, council leaders and chief executives from the eight district, borough and county councils have been meeting behind closed doors for weeks on end to put together the final details in the bid.

Meetings will take place across the region from 27 August, with members from Northamptonshire County Council – an authority now effectively insolvent and offering only a programme of bare-bones public services – specifically set to meet on the 28th.

All eight councils have been asked by the communities secretary to submit a proposal that meets a set of criteria. These plans were originally due on 27 July, but this was postponed by new boss James Brokenshire.

Any idea put forward must be based on existing council boundaries, and each new proposed authority must have a population substantially in excess of 300,000. A single, county-wide unitary has been explicitly ruled out as an option by central government.

The government has also confirmed that only one proposal will be accepted rather than a range of options. The winning bid must demonstrate clear potential for savings, must command “a good deal” of local support, must prioritise Whitehall’s housing and growth agenda, and must give due consideration to the results of the Best Value reportpublished earlier this year – which recommended a two-unitary system.

If Brokenshire agrees with the bid put forward and survives both Houses of Parliament, it is expected that shadow unitary boards will be created in May 2019 ahead of elections taking place the year after.

Liberal Democrat county councillor Chris Stanbra told the Northamptonshire Telegraph that he expects a lack of support for a two unitary solution for the region, “as that is all the ‘mood music’ we have been hearing.” But he believes the government will plough ahead with that proposal regardless of what councils want.

Article credit: PSE (Public Sector Executive)

Image credit: Joe Giddens, PA Images

Northamptonshire All Age Autism Strategy

Consultation on the Northamptonshire All Age Autism Strategy starts today.

Northamptonshire County Council, Corby CCG and Nene CCG are consulting on a draft Northamptonshire All Age Autism Strategy, which has been written by a mixed group of people in a steering group that included autistic people and family members and carers. It says how different local organisations in Northamptonshire will work together to support autistic people of all ages in a much better way throughout their lives. We would like to know your views on the vision and priorities that have been identified to make things better for autistic people in Northamptonshire.

Please visit their website for further information.

Have your say

You can give Northamptonshire County Council, Corby CCG and Nene CCG your views in a number of ways. Please visit their website for all of the different ways you can give your feedback to these proposals, including an online questionnaire.

This consultation closes at 5pm on Sunday 7 October 2018.

Details of this consultation and other past and present consultations are available on Northamptonshire County Council’s Consultation Register.

Bob Fletcher
Commissioning Manager (Autism)
Northamptonshire Adult Social Services (NASS)
One Angel Square
Angel Street
Northampton
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Why Northamptonshire Went Bust

Simon Duffy visited Wellingborough to explore with citizens of Northamptonshire why their County Council had become bankrupt.

He argues that Northamptonshire is bankrupt in three ways:

  1. Financially – it could not pay its debts
  2. Politically – its leaders were no longer persuasive
  3. Intellectually – its thinking was no longer credible

Northamptonshire County Council was a leading Conservative Council, one that had led the way in the privatisation of almost every function. However privatisation and austerity together have undermined the whole system, leaving local people desperate and fearful as central government now reorganises the Council – splitting it into two parts, while destroying the 7 district councils beneath it.

Simon goes on to offer practical examples of the kind of community and citizenship orientated approaches which could help local communities escape the fate of Northamptonshire.

 


Originally published on the Centre for Welfare Reform website.

Film published by Lou Armitt.

Presentation: Responding to Northamptonshire’s Bankruptcy © Simon Duffy 2018.

All Rights Reserved. No part of this paper may be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher except for the quotation of brief passages in reviews.

Corby Says No To Single Tier Authority Proposals

After holding a consultation on unitary authority proposals directly for Corby residents, Corby Borough Council has now collated all of their responses and has found an emphatic 95% are against the introduction of a Single Tier Authority.

Corby Borough Council sent out the consultation to all households throughout the Borough and also held a petition style document at the Corby Cube for individuals to have their say. The results are as follows to the following question ‘Do you want your local authority, Corby Borough Council, to be replaced with a larger authority that funds all your services and makes decisions for the whole of North Northants’:

 

Household consultation:

4,435 households voted No

228 households voted Yes

 

Petition Style Document:

55 individuals voted No

1 individual voted Yes

 

These results will now be fed into the report that will be taken to Corby Borough Council’s Special Full Council on 30th August and will help inform Corby’s response to the Secretary of State. They will also be fed into the county wide consultation as a submission from Corby.

Leader of Corby Borough Council, Cllr Tom Beattie, said:

‘I made it very clear from the outset that Corby Borough Council did not willingly accept the conclusion of the Government Inspector that there should be a two unitary solution. I also stated that I would ensure the people of Corby had the opportunity to have their say before any response was made.

‘We are very pleased that the people of Corby have taken advantage of this opportunity through what has been a very successful consultation process. The results here in Corby are very clear and this will now help inform our response to the Secretary of State.

‘We would like to thank every household and individual for taking time to have their say on this very important issue.’

Corby’s consultation was held in addition to the county wide consultation that all Northamptonshire authorities are a part of. The county wide consultation results are expected to be released soon.

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.