Rebel Tory councillor suspended after defying whip during first ever North Northants Council meeting

The past few weeks have been a turbulent time for the North Northants Conservatives

By Kate Cronin
Tuesday, 8th June 2021, 8:45 am
Conservative council leader Cllr Smithers (left) at the first ever NNC meeting and Cllr Scott Brown (inset)
Conservative council leader Cllr Smithers (left) at the first ever NNC meeting and Cllr Scott Brown (inset)

A Conservative councillor has been suspended after defying the whip at his first ever council meeting.

The Northants Telegraph has learned that Councillor Scott Brown who won his Earls Barton seat for the first time at the May 6 elections, had the whip temporarily withdrawn for the next month at last night’s virtual Conservative group meeting after he is said to have refused to back down over the contentious vote.

Speaking later on his social media page, he said that he would continue to vote in the way that he feels ‘best serves the people of Earls Barton.’

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It comes after a turbulent month for local Tories which saw big-hitter Cllr Martin Griffiths, former Wellingborough Council leader, resign from the party and call for an inquiry over a botched deputy-leadership contest.

In the lead up to the first ever North Northamptonshire Council (NNC) meeting on May 27, councillors from across the political spectrum had raised concerns that the chairs of two key scrutiny committees would not be from opposition parties, as is the tradition in local government.

Instead, it had been said the leader Cllr Jason Smithers intended to hand the roles to members of his own Conservative group - described by other councillors as ‘marking their own homework’.

At the inaugural meeting of NNC, Independent member Cllr Jim Hakewill, a former Tory and scrutiny chair himself, proposed an amendment to a motion that would ensure the vice chair, as well the chair, of the finance and resources scrutiny committee would be from the opposition group.

Conservatives had whipped every vote at the first meeting - meaning their own councillors had to vote with the leadership or face sanctions.

Cllr Brown voted for the amendment and against his own party, the only Tory to do so. The amendment was eventually voted down by the Conservative members.

He was called to face a virtual disciplinary meeting last night (Monday, June 7) in front of the local Conservative group although it is believed he could not attend in person due to a prior engagement.

In his absence, he had the whip suspended for a month which, in effect, means he is temporarily excluded from the party.

Writing on his councillor’s Facebook page last night, Cllr Brown said: “Today I’ve been informed that I have had the whip withdrawn, and have been suspended from the Conservative Group on North Northamptonshire Council.

“My ‘crime’ was to vote in favour of an amendment brought by the independent Cllr Hakewell.

“Residents of the Earls Barton ward need not be alarmed, I shall continue to work diligently for all residents and will always vote in the council chamber, in a way that I feel best serves the people of Earls Barton and surrounding villages.”

Cllr Brown will sit on the finance and resources scrutiny committee which will be chaired by opposition member Cllr Mark Pengelly (Labour). The overall scrutiny commission will be chaired by Tory Cllr Wendy Brackenbury.