No-confidence motion in Northants county council defeated as library closures are debated

Jo Taylor of Desborough library.
Jo Taylor of Desborough library.

The leader of Northamptonshire County Council Heather Smith has responded to a call for her and her cabinet to resign over a slew of proposed cuts to services by saying “the public understands the position we are in”.

A vote of no confidence was raised by the Labour Party at a full county council cabinet meeting today (November 23), asking for the current cabinet to step down.

Labour and Lib Dem councillors called on Cllr Smith and her cabinet to “let someone who can properly run this county take over”.

It comes after the county council put forward plans in October to cut nearly £10m from public services, which could close up to 28 libraries and make nearly half of Northamptonshire’s trading standards team redundant.

Cllr Gareth Eales (Labour) said: “You have lost the confidence of the Government, the district councils and most, most importantly, the public.

“When you were campaigning for the elections in May, you misled the public.

“You had no ability to deliver that budget. You didn’t say you would be slashing the libraries and trading standards.

“Call an election. We’ll see what the public think. You turkeys might not vote for Christmas but your goose is cooked.”

Deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats Cllr Dennis Meredith said the county council was “on the brink” of having Government inspectors step in and take over.

Cllr Smith responded: “Perhaps the opposition should try listening to the public a bit more.

“A lot of cabinet members have attended public meetings and... the public understands the position we are in and the difficulty we face to produce a balanced budget.

“The number of hours my cabinet members are putting in has made this more than a full-time job. I find it personally insulting that the opposition believes we are not doing our jobs.

“And none of us wanted to send out some of the decisions for public consultation. We believe that by working in the community we can find ways of protecting these services.

“We have no choice but to reduce non-statutory services.

“Many of you here have no idea how difficult it is to produce a balanced budget, but, rest assured, we will.”

The no-confidence vote was defeated 36 to 11 against.

Another motion asking for no libraries to be closed in the proposed cuts, dubbed “option 4” will be debated this afternoon.

Cllr Meredith said: “They are cutting the libraries to save £2m each month just so they can they can run the county council.

“These cuts are going to severely affect vulnerable, elderly and local people.

“Libraries are vital for the community. People go to them to find company and educate themselves.

“They have taken over the role of the children’s centres.

“Cutting libraries now is the same as cutting the children’s centre all over again.”

Cllr Brian Markham (Lib Dem) said: “I’m involved in my area with the friends of Abington library but there are 30 odd libraries in the county, under threat.

“In particular we are supporting the call for option 4.

“The proposal, you can vote and you can say what you want on the libraries but all three options at the moment say there will be closures, we are in favour of the idea that there should be another option, option 4, which is no closures.”

Jo Taylor from Desborough library brought a petition with 2,022 signatures from residents over the closure of the library.

She said: “We find that the library is not just for books, it’s for people using the computers, for the young mothers doing the learning groups, it’s for the elderly people coming in to borrow a book and ask for advice and it’s a real community hub for our town of Desborough.”