'Now is not the time for changes in leadership': under-pressure Northamptonshire County Council leader

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

The under-fire leader of Northamptonshire County Council said she will not resign after more than half of her Tory colleagues called for the Government to take over running the council.

Yesterday, 20 Conservative backbenchers issued a statement blaming the Tory administration at County Hall for the financial crisis that led to the authority issuing a Section 114 order, freezing all new spending except on statutory requirements. They, like the county's seven Conservative MPs who also criticised the leadership of the council, said they had not been given clear information about the crisis facing the council.

Last night, leader Councillor Heather Smith issued a response, stating that now was not the time to make changes at the top.

"I am aware that approximately half of the Conservative councillors, including a significant number of recently elected Members, have issued a statement supporting the press release previously issued by Northamptonshire's MPs.

"The councillors have understandable concerns about the financial position within the county council. Now is not the time to change the Leadership within the County Council.

"I have been given the support of the cabinet and others within our Conservative Group.

"It is the most important time in the financial year for setting the Budget and the Council Tax. This is a statutory requirement placed on all elected members and this process has to be completed. The consequences of not setting and approving a Budget during the month of February would be severe.

"The Government Minister announced today that the independent Best Value inspection currently underway will be completed by mid-March and no interim report is expected. As I have previously said, I welcome the inspection process and await the findings."