NNC staff 'brow-beaten' and 'looking for new jobs', as councillors vote to increase numbers to 99

The claim came during a fiery full council meeting

Cllr Martin Griffiths made some astonishing remarks about NNC staff
Cllr Martin Griffiths made some astonishing remarks about NNC staff

A former borough council leader claimed that ‘under-pressure’ North Northants Council staff are looking for the exit door in incendiary Corby Cube meeting yesterday.

Cllr Martin Griffiths said that staff ‘brow beaten’ NNC officers are looking for alternative jobs – a claim denied by leader Cllr Jason Smithers.

The ferocious claims came during a meeting of the full council at which a vote was passed to increase the membership from 78 councillors to 99.

At the same meeting, councillors pushed through proposals to raise their own allowances by ten per cent.

At points, proceedings became so volatile that executive member Cllr Helen Harrison had to ask members to stop throwing insults at one another.

The Boundary Commission is currently undertaking a review of electoral boundaries and as part of that, NNC are looking at ward boundaries in our area. A cross-party working group headed-up by Cllr Lora Lawman has been examining the issues in detail for some months.

Cllr Lawman presented a report to members that proposed increasing the size of the council because of the high workload of councillors. She said that the area was very fast growing and members were working about 42 hours per week.

Labour and the Green Alliance groups had proposed a smaller increase.

But Labour Cllr Matt Keane, who sat on the working group, said: “It wasn’t unanimous and as the Labour representative on the group we all reached a different number.

"A lot of our areas do not reflect the communities we represent and the electorate sizes are greatly different.

“This is a golden opportunity to get this council right and fit for purpose for the next 15 to 20 years.

"I think 99 is too high and too expensive but a small increase is necessary.”

Cllr Martin Griffiths gave an explosive speech, during which he said: “In my opinion, this report and its recommendations are bordering on cloud cuckoo land.

"There’s a lot about member workload in the report. Many of you in this chamber pushed, some vehemently, for a total member-led council.

"Well you’ve got what you wanted. With a hell of a lot of hard work, an executive making all the key decisions the desire for his council to be committee-led, long forgotten. And an officer team being micro-managed, under pressure and brow-beaten and looking for alternative positions elsewhere."

Leader Jason Smithers denied Cllr Griffiths’ claims, saying none of his officers are brow-beaten.

Many councillors mentioned that Max Caller, the man commissioned to write a report on the collapse of the former North Northamptonshire Council, had proposed 45 councillors.

Conservative Cllr Scott Brown voted against his own party’s proposals twice at yesterday’s meeting, saying that he believed in ‘small government’.

An angered Cllr Andy Mercer said that he had recently resigned from the executive on medical advice because of his blood pressure.

“The work on the executive is not a full time job,” he said. “It’s more than a full time job. You don’t get a better service by having fewer councillors.”

The proposals were carried and will now go to the Boundary Commission for further analysis.