'Now is the time to say goodbye': Northamptonshire County Council meets for the last time after 132 years

Discussion varied from thanking coronavirus heroes to reflecting on three years of financial recovery

After 132 years, Northamptonshire County Council met for the final time yesterday (Thursday, February 18) before being abolished on March 31.

Discussion varied from thanking the community for its response to the coronavirus pandemic to reflecting on three years of financial recovery for the infamous local authority.

Councillors also agreed motions to tackle inequality and praise officers as well as updates on the local authority's work over the past 12 months.

Chairman Graham Lawman ended the historic meeting by saying: "To copy the words of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, now is the time to say goodbye."

From April 1, North and West Northamptonshire unitary councils will be in charge of public services in place of the eight county, borough and district councils.

The local government reorganisation is happening because of the council's financial collapse in 2018 and the meeting heard how much hard work has gone into stabilising the local authority.

Council leader Matt Golby and others heaped praise on members, officers and the commissioners, who were sent by Whitehall to help sort out the issues, for ending the council's history in better shape.

A screengrab of the last-ever Northamptonshire County Council meeting on Zoom

But councillors added how it has been far from rosy for officers and residents having to deal with cuts to services and pay freezes as well as being branded as the worst-run council in England.

Councillor Danielle Stone said: "I see communities under more stress than ever before in my lifetime with more poverty, more exclusions, less respite for hard-pressed families."

Lord Lieutenant of Northamptonshire James Saunders Watson said it was an honour to open the final meeting of the council which was formed in 1889.

A motion from Gllr Golby thanking council staff for their 'outstanding commitment, hard work, dedication, loyalty and resilience' was unanimously passed.

As was a motion from Councillor Ian Morris praising key workers and volunteers 'who have selflessly put the interests of serving the public and supporting our communities above themselves, in the responding to this unprecedented pandemic'.

Councillor John McGhee's motion for the council to note the impact of the pandemic on black and ethnic minority (BAME) communities and take actions to reduce inequality was unanimously approved after some disagreement.

The Conservatives initially wanted to remove the reference to Northamptonshire Rights and Equality Council's nine-point plan, which seeks to address racial inequalities.

But Cllr Golby decided to allow it to stay for the sake of unity during the last-ever full meeting.

Labour leader Bob Scott's motion with a series of recommendations to the successor councils from what they have learnt over the past few years was shot down by the Conservatives.

Councillor Lizzy Bowen said it would be better to bring them to the new councils' executives rather than the county council.

Chief executive Theresa Grant provided presentations on the councils response to the pandemic, the local government changes and the county council wrapping up its work.

Tributes were paid to late councillors Brian Binley and Ron Pinnock as well as Anne Goodman, Dr Ahmed Mukhtar and all those who have died of Covid-19 in the county.