Monday, 28 September 2009

No accountability, No democracy, No point

Tonight Northampton Borough Council asks it's 47 elected Councillors to vote on its "Annual Governance Statement" which gives an external auditors view on whether or not the Council ensures its business is conducted in accordance with the law and whether or not its systems of internal control are sufficient to manage risk.

NBC's external auditors KPMG who get paid around £250,000 a year to tick the right boxes over this and the financial audit have said amongst other things this year that:

"There are a number of concerns that the internal structure of NBC does not always match the portfolio holder responsibilities." and also that:

"There was also a concern from portfolio holders that their political “hot topics” which had immediate media and public attention did not receive the same degree of focus on the agenda as items on improvement plans. The council’s communications team have been working to address this."

On top of the above we then also pay Price Waterhouse Cooper a further fee for carrying out an "Internal Audit"

And then if we weren't audited enough we then have our national rating set by the government which despite all our auditing still puts NBC at the bottom of the pile as a "Poor" 1 star Council.

So tonight I will vote against the statement of Annual Governance, not least because I have little faith in the number crunchers and auditors who are to me nothing more than a bunch of overpaid and over remote consultants, but also because I believe on Northampton Borough Council that we do not have any local governance at present. The report tonight is really about 2008/09 but its findings only magnify the current difficulties in 2009.

Decisions you see,now and then are not taken by Councillors, not even within the Cabinets inner circle, they are taken by Senior Council Officers at their management board and handed down to a puppet administration as a "Fait Accompli"

Opposition Councillors and even Councillors within the ruling Party are the last to find out what the Council is planning or implementing. Budgets are changed, services withdrawn, expenditure agreed, staff appointed, all without even a pretence of elected accountability or proper electoral scrutiny.

This year it is worst than ever. For instance we all voted reluctantly in February for a rise in fees for Pest Control Services to help us balance the books, the Council then went and scrapped the Service altogether! Officers also agreed deals with other authorities to enter into partnerships to Market Test and possibly deliver core services and set on staff without any approval from Cabinet.

Last week 250 staff at Cliftonville were told they were moving out of their offices completely and that redundancies will most probably arise, all without even a mention of the plan to elected members. So why do we bother then with Councillors? after all we are hardly flavour of the month amongst the electorate, so why not let the people making all the decisions take all the flak and deal with all the complaints?

Why indeed? because it can only get worse. With all of the three main Political Parties bragging at their conferences about who will cut public expenditure the most, we know that Local Government has nothing to look forward to over the next few years other than Cuts on top of Cuts on top of Cuts.

Council Leaders will be told then, even more so than now, by their Chief Executives not what they can choose to do, but simply that these are the cuts you will implement, and that you can't say that there will not be any more.

Of course to hide all of this Councils will continue to champion its capital projects and grant aided schemes to cover up for their subservient obedience. In Northampton this means we get a new Fountain on the Market Square to look at whilst at the same time they close all the Public Toilets. It means we get a new Marina in Beckett's Park whilst our existing green spaces become overgrown and turned into "wildlife areas" due to cut backs in grass cutting and grounds maintenance. And it means that a town which can't even afford to employ a rat man can afford to have a "Market Square Entertainments Officer" to keep us all happy when buying our bananas.

Well the other 46 "elected" members can go along with all this deceit if they please, but I am not prepared to mislead anybody. I seriously say to my electorate that the only thing they get back from me for their vote at present is a glorified Social Worker and an awkward bugger happy to stir up the pot and fight on their behalf to make sure they get their share of a increasingly poor service.

I even contemplated standing down last week, resigning my seat and forcing a by election to stand once again on a platform of no confidence in our electoral system, only the cost of such a move at a time when every penny needs to be spent on the most needy in our society stopped me from doing so.

But I wont be silenced, I won't go along with the flow and I wont pretend to the voters that the Council's improving when it is clear that that is not the case.

I believe however that I am not alone. I believe that there are also those in all three parties who also agree with me. Some of them over the past few months have had the courage to tell me so, a smaller number have been willing to support me in the chamber at the time of a vote.

When times are very hard and when the Government trys to clamp down on spending whilst at the same time is still telling you that you must build more houses and provide for more people then we need elected councillors more than ever who are prepared to stand up and fight for our town and collectively take on those who oppose us. We need Councillors from all party's willing to put Politics to one side and work together to secure a better deal for Northampton.

What we don't want and don't deserve is a bunch of lily livered cowards unable or unwilling to challenge authority at local or national level and not prepared to stand up and declare that they have the elected authority and that they will make the choices and the decisions on behalf of the people who elected them.

Those willing to vote against the Annual Governance Statement tonight or even willing to abstain may just start to show the public that all is not lost.


  1. Firstly...
    "a glorified Social Worker and an awkward bugger happy to stir up the pot..."

    Is that all you think you are? Is this what you see? Have they made you feel this way?

    Secondly... you really thought about stepping down? Walking away and letting them win? Mate, this is not the guy I know you to be!

    Just for the record, and incase you forgot; you are sooo much more than that! You be as awkward as you like, you be as rebellious as you like; and in honesty I expect you to be trouble!

    You have been more than just an awkward bugger to me on more occasions than I care to mention! Even if you can't always help me, the fact you take time and listen to me is sometimes all I need... Your friendship and hug has meant more to me than any empty promise ever could, knowing you are there with a friendly hug or advice is more than enough sometimes!

    Just so you know, no matter what I will ALWAYS have your back and will always support you. I would fight to defend you and happily take a bullet for you, but you know that right? You are one of the very few who can not only get the best out of me, but also gets the real side of me.

    I hope you stick around, lets face it; this council, town and indeed county need people like you who are willing to stand up and fight for the people in it. And for the record, I will remind you of something you said to me once... don't let the buggers grind you down!

    For far too long I have had to sit and hear certain (you know who I mean) people slag you off and make comments, it has killed me sometimes not to be able to say anything or stick up for you... it stops now; you are my mate and I will defend you as such!

    And if you need it, remember I would happily kick his (or their) butt(s) if you need it... oh and just so you know, I have the spade and body bags when you need them! And some great places to bury them!! I admit that I probably made the wrong choice, but I will have to fix it myself... God help the bugger that tries starting with you next time!!!

  2. Tony
    No accountability, No democracy, No point
    I agree with your point that there is no accountability or democracy, BUY there is a point and that point is to keep fighting for it?

  3. Thanks both for your support, and worry not the fight goes on.




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