Former leader of Northamptonshire County Council resigns as councillor

Former leader Heather Smith has walked away from Northamptonshire County Council.
Former leader Heather Smith has walked away from Northamptonshire County Council.

The former leader of Northamptonshire County Council has resigned as a councillor, saying her role as backbencher ‘does not serve any useful purpose’.

A by-election will now be held after Heather Smith resigned following 11 years as a councillor representing Oundle.

In a email to the council’s monitoring officer Susan Zeiss Cllr Smith, who was leader at the council from May 2016 to March this year, is reported to have said: “I do not believe my presence will serve any useful purpose any more to the council.”

Mrs Smith stepped down from the top political job at Northamptonshire County Council on the day the report by Government inspector Max Caller was published. It said the council had been severely failing and was no longer fit for purpose.

Mrs Smith then left the Conservative Party in August claiming that she could no longer cope with negative comments from members of the party.

In a subsequent Local Government Chronicle interview she said she had been made a scapegoat for the failings of the council.

She said: “Now I’m not saying that mistakes weren’t made in Northamptonshire. I think that if you dig in to any authority you’ll find that mistakes have been made. Our previous chief executive [Paul Blantern] wanted to try something different, but it didn’t work and he lost his job over it.”

Since becoming an independent councillor Mrs Smith attended few council meetings including a number of full council meetings.

A spokesman for the council said: “A councillor who wishes to resign from the county council must notify the authority’s proper officer in writing, something which Cllr Heather Smith has done.

“The resignation was received on December 31 and took effect from that date.

“The county council will publish a notice of vacancy as soon as is practicable. A by-election will then take place in accordance with the relevant statutory provisions.”

Local politicians have taken to twitter to have their say on Mrs Smith’s departure.

Sally Keeble, who is the Labour prospective Parliamentary candidate for Northampton North, said: “So – representing the people who elected you is not a “useful purpose?” So much for democracy at bankrupt Northants CC.”

Conservative councillor Jonathan Ekins, who represents the Brickhill and Queensway ward in Wellingborough, said: “Her quote “I do not believe my presence will serve any useful purpose any more”. How about doing something novel like representing your constituents?? She should be ashamed of herself.”