'Local leaders who have taken poor decisions should not have a future in Northamptonshire's new councils', says minister

Statement came after Labour peer demanded: 'Nobody should stand in elections if they played a leading role in scandals'

Wednesday, 10th March 2021, 2:07 pm
County and borough councils have been caught up financial scandals in Northamptonshire

A government minister has hinted that no councillors involved in two Northamptonshire "scandals" should have a top job in either of the county's two new unitary authorities.

And Labour peer, Lord Kennedy, says those who were high up in the Conservative administraion at the county council and Northampton Borough Council at the time should not even stand in May's elections.

Lord Greenhalgh, minister for local government, told Parliament said: "We need to make sure local leaders who have taken poor decisions do not have a future in the leadership of local government."

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Local government minister Lord Greenhalgh and opposition spokesman Lord Kennedy (right)

He was responding to a speech by opposition local government spokesman Lord Kennedy during a debate on a bill which will ensure a smooth changeover to the new North Northamptonshire and West Northamptonshire authorities.

The two new bodies will replace the county council plus all seven districts and boroughs at the end of the month.

Lord Kennedy said: "This reorganisation has come about through the financial mismanagement and near collapse of Northamptonshire County Council.

"It is financial mismanagement at its worst. It is letting down those you are elected to serve. It is letting down those least able to defend themselves.

"Taken with the serious failures of governance at Northampton Borough Council, resulting in the loss of £10m of taxpayers’ money in the Northampton Town loan scandal, it is a complete and utter disgrace."

Nominations close on April 8 ahead of the first elections for 168 seats on the two new councils which are due to take place on May 6, a year after they were originally set but then delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Lord Kennedy added: "Where Labour councils or councillors have failed to uphold high standards, I expect action to be taken by my party.

"I believe nobody should stand for election to North Northamptonshire Council or West Northamptonshire Council if they have played a leading role in any of these scandals.

"The Government should think about that carefully because we have let residents and the council taxpayers down."

Earlier this month, Lord Kennedy urged the government to respond to a damning independent report into a borough council's £13.5million loan intended to fund redevelopment of Cobblers' Sixfields ground in 2013.

More than £10million has never been repaid and a files from a five-year police investigation into allegations of bribery, misconduct in public office, fraud and money laundering are still with prosecutors.

January's report by auditors KPMG, which was made public 'in the public interest', criticised Northampton Borough Council cabinet members for "failing to provide adequate governance."

Three years ago, Northamptonshire County Council announced it was "effectively insolvent" following a a government-appointed investigator's report into financial and management failures at the authority which recommended the council be broken up.

The council changed its leadership structure, both politically and structurally, following the financial meltdown.

Leader Matt Golby told last month's final county council meeting: "I want to recognise how far we've come the excellent work that's gone into this.

"When we close the door on NCC, we would have done so and left it in a very good financial place."