Corby leader slams' dead money' decision to hire Kettering venue as new council chamber

As the existing council chambers cannot fit the 78 shadow councillors the new authority is likely to hire out a venue at additional cost.

Labour leader Tom Beattie is not happy on 'dead money' being spent on hiring a venue in Kettering.
Labour leader Tom Beattie is not happy on 'dead money' being spent on hiring a venue in Kettering.

Corby Council’s leader has hit out at the county’s other leaders for deciding to hire a Kettering venue for meetings of the new shadow unitary authority instead of using an existing council chamber.

Cllr Tom Beattie says the decision to hire Kettering Conference Centre for meetings of all 78 members of the new shadow council instead of making adaptations to Corby Cube is ‘dead money to a commercial concern’.

The cost of hiring the venue in Thurston Drive for a year is about £13,000. Elections for the new shadow authority take place on May 7 and in April 2021 the four borough councils in North Northants along with the county council will merge to form one new super council.

This is the first time the leader of the Labour-run council has publicly broken ranks and spoken out against the other seven Conservative leaders of the councils. All eight leaders have been meeting weekly in private for the past year to thrash out the details of how the shadow councils will run.

In an email sent to all Corby councillors last week Cllr Beattie, who is against the unitary reorganisation, wrote: “You will recall that I informed you recently that the council chamber at the Corby Cube was being actively considered as the venue for full meetings of the new Shadow Authority. Despite me arguing strongly in favour of the Cube at a meeting on Tuesday of this week the other District and Borough Leaders opted to choose the Kettering Conference Centre (KCC), a privately-owned and managed venue. In every criteria looked at; capacity, facilities, location, parking, accessibility for both the public and disabled, plus public perception, the Cube ticked every box. The only area we fell down on was cost. The cost of hiring KCC was estimated at £13.4k. The cost of adapting the Council Chamber at Corby Cube was either £33.4k or £38.4k, depending on layout.

“It is my strongly held view that in considering costs they were not comparing apples with apples. Any spend on the Cube is an investment, as the building will no doubt be a vital component of any new North Northamptonshire Unitary Council, unless they intend to demolish it! Any spend on KCC is dead money paid to a commercial concern. Good to remember also that we are contributing significant sums from our own coffers to pay for this reorganisation.

“I also believe that there will be a very negative public reaction to spending money on a private venue when, with a modest investment, there is a perfectly functional and modern public building in Corby. Maybe the fact that it is in Corby is the problem.

“I don’t think this decision augurs well for Corby going forward to the new authority.”

The councils are collectively spending £43m on unitary reorganisation – with each borough council committing £2.4m to the reorganisation. Finance officers predict the spend could make efficiency savings of £85m a year, although some councillors have questioned that figure. The county council’s new auditor has already said there is a significant the risk the reorganisation is not value for money.Each council has its own chamber – but because of the size of the council membership there is not a room currently equipped to seat all councillors. It has not been decided how the new unitary council will operate and whether existing council offices across North Northamptonshire will remain.