Tempers boil over in NNC council chamber as members vote to give themselves a payrise

They voted to raise their allowances by up to 33 per cent

Friday, 24th June 2022, 6:00 am
Updated Friday, 24th June 2022, 8:20 am
Yesterday's full NNC meeting became heated at points
Yesterday's full NNC meeting became heated at points

Councillors clashed cross the chamber floor during a passionate meeting over members’ allowances yesterday (Thursday, June 23).

North Northants members had been meeting to decide whether to award themselves a generous ten per cent allowance hike after the publication of an independent report that said a rise was appropriate.

One councillor told the meeting of an incident in her ward where a boy ended up with his arm slashed because he had to work for criminals to get money, and others spoke of how they could not look residents in the face if they took a rise.

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Conservative members had been whipped to back the proposals but independent and Labour councillors were given a free vote. Tempers flared after two Conservative members – Cllrs Scott Brown and King Lawal – warned they would defy the whip and vote against the pay rise.

And members were given a dressing-down by senior councillor Helen Harrison who felt some of the comments thrown across the chamber crossed the line into personal insults.

In the end, the proposals to raise salaries by between ten and 33 per cent were carried despite emotional speeches centred on the cost-of-living crisis facing many residents in Northamptonshire.

Here is what some councillors had to say on the matter.

John McGhee, Labour leader, Kingswood and Hazel Leys

On this day, at this time when people are struggling out there we want to spend a lot of money giving councillors extra. Look at your conscience and look at your residents out there, people who will be choosing between heating and eating. And that’s the reality. We’re going into the deepest recession we’ve had for many a time and we want to spend the money on ourselves. It’s not acceptable. Think about your conscience and not the whip.

Cllr Andy Mercer, Rushden South, Conservative

There’s been repeated criticism of Conservatives who didn’t write the report.. and yet we’re the ones who are having mud thrown at us. When the original allowances were being proposed we did not think they were right. We were promised ‘OK we’ll sort it out next time’. Now we’re being told we can’t sort it out.

Cllr Zoe McGhee, Labour, Kingswood and Hazel Leys

Just a short walk from here in this ward there's a young man who, not long ago, confided in his youth worker, ‘I have to join them’. And she said, ‘Of course you don’t there’s always a choice, you never have to put yourself in that position. You would never have to do that’. And he said to her ‘Well actually I do. I’ve got a house and in that house is my mum and my sister and in our fridge there’s only a block of cheese. That’s all we ever seem to have in our fridge. A block of cheese’. And he said to his youth worker at the age of 16 ‘I have to feed my mum, I have to feed my sister, that’s what I have to do.’ This young man six months later was found in a field not too far from here with nearly his whole right arm missing. He had been a victim of knife crime. His arm was nearly hanging off, he was helicoptered to a hospital because he felt he didn’t have a choice. Because he had to feed his family. That is the reality of what is happening just outside here and that’s why in good conscience I cannot support this. And I urge you all, when you hold up your orange cards, to think of that young man, and I urge you all to think that this isn’t just a Kingswood issue this isn’t just a Corby issue, issues like that are happening all over the county and I really think that these are the people who we should be supporting in these times and not ourselves.

Cllr King Lawal, Conservative, Brickhill and Queensway

I’ve come into politics not to be whipped, but to stand for what is right and what is true to me and on this point of principle I cannot support this item. I stand here today to be awarded an increase of eleven per cent for my work as councillor when millions of people are struggling with the cost of living and other public services are without an increase at all. NHS workers are getting one per cent. I would be in dereliction of my duty as a representative of the people I stand for and myself if I vote this through. Any increase that comes to me will be going to a charity of my choosing.

Cllr Scott Brown, Conservative, Earls Barton

It’s never about the money. My wife is an NHS nurse and this year she received a three per cent pay rise. My friend is a firefighter who received 1.5 per cent. When I consider these numbers, and look down at the list of recommendations I see, what I can only describe as grotesque figures of ten per cent, 17 per cent, 13 per cent and 33 per cent increase, given the current climate.. I urge my colleagues to take heed of the treasury minister’s advice, show discipline in these difficult times and reject these recommendations.

Cllr Dorothy Maxwell, Conservative, Irthlingborough

I support these recommendations because this report was done by an independent person. I feel that it’s not about the money, it’s about giving our services to the public out there. I welcome this report and I don’t feel guilty.

Alison Dalziel, Labour, Beanfield

This morning the Northants Telegraph put an article on Twitter talking about this debate that was going to happen and I just wanted to relay some of the comments from general members of the public who've responded. ‘Unbelievable’, ‘beyond belief’, ‘beyond disgraceful’, ‘kick in the teeth to staff of this council’, ‘the audacity of this vote is insulting.’ The timing of this debate is completely unacceptable given what’s happening out there.

David Brackenbury, Conservative, Thrapston

We’ve spent an lot of public money commissioning this independent report. Is it perfect? I don’t think it is. It’s an independent report, we did not do this ourselves, it was done by an independent body. Having gone to the effort of putting up an independent report I think we should listen to its findings.

Ken Harrington, Conservative, Hatton Park

I found it difficult to vote for this. I’ve been in politics for 30 years and my residents are more than just residents, they’re my friends. I can’t look them in the eye and accept what appears to be an eleven per cent increase. I can’t accept that when I complain about railway workers not accepting three per cent. That’s not right.

It had been predicted before the meeting that some members would not attend rather than defy the Tory whip. Fourteen Conservative councillors sent their apologies. Their reasons were not outlined. They were Cllrs Partridge-Underwood, Nichol, O’Hara, C Brown, Sims, Thurland, Carr, Smyth, Prentice, D Jenney, North, Allebone and Levell.

And here is how your councillor voted:

FOR the allowance increase: Binley, Bone, Brackenbury, Brackenbury, Bunday, Carter, Currall, Deering, Ekins, Hallam, Harrison, Harrison, Howell, Howes, Irwin, Jackson, B Jenney, Lawman, Lawman, Marks, Maxwell, Mercer, Mercer, Pandey, Pentland, Powell, Roberts, Rowley, Shacklock, Smith-Haynes, Smithers, Tebbutt, Tye, Ward, Waters

AGAINST the allowance increase: Cllrs Addison, Anslow, Armour, S Brown, Lyn Buckingham, Griffiths, Hakewill, Keane, Lawal, Lee, McEwan, McGhee, McGhee, Pengelly

ABSTENTIONS: Harrington, Henson (chair)