‘Machinery of Government was turned against me’: Northamptonshire County Council leader has resigned

editorial image

The under-fire leader of Northamptonshire County Council Heather Smith has resigned.

Councillor Heather Smith - who had already stepped down as leader of the Tories at County Hall - has now also quit her post heading up the political leadership of the authority.

In a gloves-off press conference this afternoon, she hit back at county MPs who had relentlessly criticised her handling of Northamptonshire’s finances over recent months - which she said was at odds with independent reports into council finances generally.

And she dramatically claimed there had been a concerted Government campaign against her.

Visibly emotional, she said: “It is for the public to judge for themselves who is telling them the truth, the National Audit Office or the local MPs who requested the inspection report.

“The personal pressure of vicious public attacks by four Northamptonshire MPs, seeking to make me the scapegoat, has not been pleasant for anyone to witness.

“I have continued to fight for fairer funding for Northamptonshire residents in spite of the personal attacks.

“But as I was told a few days ago, if the machinery of Government is turned against you, you cannot win.”

Councillor Smith continued to insist today’s inspection report was wrong in its conclusion that the Government had funded the council adequately - and said the inspector’s proposed model of two unitary authorities would not work.

She said: “The country is watching what is happening to us.

“Although I’m aware that significant changes need to be made, I do not believe they will amount to the additional £50m a year that is genuinely needed in our budget to deal with our statutory obligations.”

She thanked people including members and the officers “who remained loyal” for their messages of support that “helped me survive the last few weeks” then walked from the council chamber.

The council has been under intense national scrutiny after it issued a section 114 notice as it was unlikely to be able to meet its financial obligations.

You can watch the press call live on Facebook here