'Corby's story will continue' - Tears, anger and honours at Corby Borough Council's final ever meeting
'This community didn't roll over. This community refused to give up. This borough had ambition'
Members were left in tears as the historic final meeting of Corby Borough Council took place this evening (Tuesday, March 23).
The council will be disbanded at the end of the month to make way for a new North Northamptonshire Council which will cover the whole north of the county - a move fiercely opposed by CBC.
Tonight the last ever full council meeting took place remotely and was screened live on YouTube.
The meeting was chaired by the Mayor Lawrence Ferguson and there was full attendance. Cllr Ferguson said: "The new unitary is the turning of a page but the Corby story will continue.
"It's the people who make Corby what it is, not the buildings. The Corby spirit will carry on."
In a heartfelt speech, outgoing leader Cllr Tom Beattie, who is not standing for election in the new unitary authority, said: "When I was first elected to the council in 2003 and then took on the leadership in 2011 I never dreamed I would make a speech in the way I am tonight.
"I certainly never thought I'd been making it sitting at my dining room table and talking to a computer screen.
"It's really been a special honour to have led this council. The honour of my life in fact."
Speaking of the events during the past five years at Northamptonshire County Council that led to the disbanding of the district and borough councils, Cllr Beattie added: "We know where the problem lies and it does not lie with the elected members or officers of this council.
"However I do not want tonight to be about recriminations. I want us to celebrate the achievements of CBC because we have a lot to be proud of.
"We have been on quite an incredible journey in Corby over recent years.
"We have faced many challenges but we have risen to them.
"Corby today is unrecognisable from a town that became a by-word for decline and decay after the closure of the steel industry in the early 1980s."
A tearful deputy leader Cllr Jean Addison said: "Who would have thought that this little borough would rise like a phoenix from the ashes left by the Thatcher years that brought about the closure of the steelworks and pushed thousands of hard-working families into poverty.
"This community didn't roll over. This community refused to give up. This borough had ambition."
Fighting back tears, and paying personal tribute to the many officers and councillors who had transformed Corby during the past forty years including the legendary Cllr Jimmy Kane, one of the longest-serving councillors Mark Pengelly said: "I, like many here, remember the video, 'Corby, Welcome to Hell'. What a difference this town is now from what it was. Massive investment in housing estates, massive investment in the town centre, massive investment all over."
Conservative Cllr David Sims said: "We have to look at the positives. We can't live in the past. It's been an incredible honour to serve for 14 years now as a councillor.
"I will certainly fight for Corby if I'm successful in my election."
A furious Cllr John McGhee said: "I think it's important that we recognise we are in this situation through the sheer incompetence of Northamptonshire County Council."
He asked leader Cllr Beattie what lessons he believed could be learned from Corby Borough Council's success.
Cllr Beattie said that the responsibility for bringing about the abolition of all six district and borough councils in Northamptonshire lay firmly with NCC. He said: "It's a source of great frustration that a well-run and well-regarded council is being wound-up because of the failure of NCC."
He said during his dealings with NCC over the years, he was made to feel 'like the children in the room, and that they had all the answers.'
"Clearly they didn't," he said. "My message to the new administration at NNC would be not to assume you are the sole source of all the knowledge and wise decision-making.
"Listen to others: Other members, opposing members, members of the public and stakeholder partners.
"Do that, and you will make better decisions."
Cllr Tom Beattie proposed a motion to make long-serving councillor Willie Latta an alderman of the borough of Corby.
Cllr Beattie said: "I think it's recognition of long and sterling service which Cllr Latta has given to Corby Borough Council over, I think 26 or 27 years. Willie has been a stalwart member of this council, for many years chair of the Development Control Committee. That is no easy gig. Willie did it well for a long time.
"His dedication to the role of councillor has been fantastic. He was committed, dedicated and the very best example of what a local councillor is. I don't think you get much better than Cllr Latta."
Cllr Riley added: "As the sitting chair of development control, Willie was an inspiration and I learnt an awful lot from him. I know he was scrupulous in everything he did and I think he well deserves this."
Corby Borough Council was first formed in April 1974 as part of a nationwide reorganisation of local government. Elections for the new authority will be held in May and, until then, a shadow leadership will run the new North Northamptonshire Council that will cover the former boroughs and districts of Corby, Kettering, East Northants and Wellingborough.