Leaked email reveals Tories timed cutbacks announcement at County Hall to increase election chances

Leader of Northamptonshire County Council, Councillor Heather Smith
Leader of Northamptonshire County Council, Councillor Heather Smith

Controversial proposals to cut £9.6 million from the county council budget were timed to give the Tories more chance of winning the 2019 borough elections, it has been revealed.

A leaked email from leader of the Conservative administration at County Hall, Councillor Heather Smith, revealed concerns that the Tories might struggle to win the borough council elections in Northampton.

Councillor Smith said the announcements had been timed to keep the issue "away from the 2019 election".

The emails, which also included criticism of Northampton North MP Michael Ellis for speaking out about the proposed cutbacks without speaking to Councillor Smith first, were seen by this newspaper on Wednesday night.

Councillor Smith highlighted concerns that in-fighting within the Conservative party would give an advantage to opposition parties.

Speaking about the timing of the announcements, Councillor Smith said: "If the County election results in May for Northampton North were replicated, then the Borough will face a fight to hold the Conservative control in 2019.

"We were impacted by the Borough £10million loan situation and we were doing our best to keep our budget changes away from 2019, which is why some of the potential changes have been announced now," Councillor Smith's letter stated.

The emails were written in response to statements by Mr Ellis earlier in the week when he criticised the county council's plans to close up to 21 libraries unless communities ran them themselves, reduce bus subsidies, cut jobs at Trading Standards and rescue highways maintenance funds. Mr Ellis said he could not give the council his "full support".

Councillor Smith has written to all MPs urging them to speak to her first before giving comment to the press. In a statement released last night, Councillor Smith said she was not trying to stifle debate.

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