New North Northants shadow council leader handed executive powers

Cllr Russell Roberts was not elected to the leadership by the full council, instead he was put in role by Government

Wednesday, 26th August 2020, 12:05 pm
Updated Wednesday, 26th August 2020, 12:08 pm
Cllr Roberts has now been given executive powers for the shadow council.

Decision making power for the new North Northants shadow authority has been moved into the hands of the leader after a change to the constitution.

Cllr Russell Roberts, the current leader of Kettering Borough Council who was appointed to the job by Government, will now have a ranking above his fellow executive members after the full shadow council voted last Thursday (Aug 20) to change the constitution.

It now means that, Cllr Roberts without agreement of his executive, can decide to carry out executive decisions himself or delegate them to another executive committee member, a sub committee of the executive or an officer of the shadow council.

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The constitution was only adopted in July and six amendments put forward by the shadow council’s governance and task and finish group were brought before the full council.

The move to take the delegated power away from the executive – a body of ten councillors from across the five Northants councils that will merge to form the new unitary – was criticised by a few members.

Cllr Steven North, who is a shadow executive member and current leader of East Northamptonshire Council, disagreed with the change to move power into the hands of the leader.

He said: “I don't support the change. This is meant as no disrespect to the current shadow leader. I think the power should lie with the executive and we should follow the structural change order that placed the power with the executive.”

A structural change order is the legal process by which the Government agreed the change to a unitary system in Northants.

Monitoring officer Bhupinder Gill said the change was being made in line with national guidance. The new unitary council will have a different constitution to the shadow council.

The shadow executive is made up of eight Conservatives and two Labour councillors – to reflect the political make-up of the shadow authority.

Besides the change to hand more control to Cllr Roberts, it was also decided to agree the amendments to not provide the full council with minutes from the committees and to allow named substitutes on committees.

However the proposal to limit the time councillors could question decisions to 20 minutes was amended and changed to 30 minutes after a proposal by East Northamptonshire councillor Lee Wilkes. Cllr Wilkes’ other proposal to not limit the number of questions a councillor could ask at a full council meeting was also supported.

The two-hour virtual meeting suffered a few technical issues during the online voting process, with some councillors not being able to access the vote and one vote had to be re-run.

A motion by Cllr Stanbra not to pay shadow councillors allowances was lost. In practice all councillors will not receive an allowance for their role, as already receive an allowance from the council they were elected to.

Also at the meeting the full shadow council agreed the appointment of the new chief executive officer for the new unitary.

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