No place for independents on Kettering's new unitary committee

Kettering Council's offices at Bowling Green Road.
Kettering Council's offices at Bowling Green Road.

A new committee set up by Kettering Council to represent the town’s interests in the unitary discussions will have no place for the authority’s independent councillors.

Five councillors from the council’s ruling Conservative party and two from the opposition Labour party will make up the new committee after a vote at the full council meeting held last Wednesday evening.

A motion had been put forward to have some inclusion on the unitary committee for the three councillors on the authority without any political colours.

However, independent councillors Ruth Groome, Jim Hakewill and Michael Brown were left disappointed after the Conservatives voted down the proposal. The council’s one Liberal Democrat councillor, Andrew Dutton, is also denied a place.

Cllr Hakewill, who left the Conservative party earlier this year, said: “This council has the opportunity to add one place. That is not unreasonable.

“A council that welcomed scrutiny would welcome an additional place. Not agreeing really reflects that the power base sits where it sits and the residents have no opportunity to be represented other than through the other two groups.”

Council leader Russell Roberts said: “It seems that people are trying to elbow their way on and break the rules of political proportionality. If we break it, where are we?”

The council also decided against starting a community governance review which could have led to the creation of a town council for Kettering. Deputy leader Lesley Thursland said such a move would be too hasty.

The new committee will discuss the proposals ahead of a new unitary council for North Northamptonshire.

This was proposed by seven of Northamptonshire’s eight councils this August and a consultation is now being taken by the secretary of state for local government James Brokenshire.

However, the new Kettering unitary committee will not have any decision-making powers, that will be the duty of a show unitary authority that is expected to be set up this coming May. As yet it is not known who will sit on the shadow council.