So last night I initiated a call in (backed by the Tory opposition) of a decision taken by the Liberal Democrats to alter the way it liaises with its Council tenants. The Council didn't like the previous "elected" tenants body and wants to scrap it in favour of a "selected" panel.
My call in challenged the lack of consultation on these proposals prior to the Cabinet making their decision. We were able to prove that only a handful of selected residents had been consulted and that even Councillors on the Cabinet were only given 16 pages of a 78 page report drawn up by outside consultants. The Council had not followed the best practice outlined by the Department for Communities and Local Government and they only proposed to consult residents in the future on their own preferred option rather than giving them a real choice of all three options outlined in the report.
They were bang to rights, and they knew it. So what did they do? Well a "Call in" is either found to be invalid and falls, or valid and therefore recommendations are sent back to Cabinet (a bit like the House of Lords returning business to the Commons) to rethink or amend their proposals.
But this is the Northampton Liberal Democrats we are dealing with. So one of the Polit Bureau Cllr Paul Varnsverry rewrote the council rules (to the amazement and expressed concern of the Borough Solicitor) by rejecting the call in, whilst at the same time promising to make "Informal" suggestions to the Cabinet over their concerns. The vote that followed went purely on party lines with all of the Lib Dems supporting this ridiculous diversion from having to admit their own Cabinet may have got it wrong.
So the Cabinet get off scot free. They don't have to change anything, they can just have a cosy behind closed doors chat about where they may have gone wrong. Tenants have no comfort as to what will happen next, and members of the public (not for the first time) left the Guildhall with a nasty taste in their mouth akin to "Cover up"
What is wrong with being wrong? Why do they feel unable to follow the council rules and if necessary say to their own leadership through the formal procedure laid down that "We think there is a problem here that you need to address"
I upset a few of them last night by suggesting they would follow a party whip on this matter and vote the call in down whatever it's merits. A couple of them angrily informed me that was not so, and I have to accept their word. But when all Liberal Democrats present, back an unconstitutional motion, to vote down a valid call in, on the promise of a behind closed doors word in the ear of the leader, then you have to question whether or not the group needs a whip in the first place.
This lot it seems would vote for the reinstatement of George Bush as President if their leadership told them it was a good idea.
Constructive criticism, whatever its source, together with proper scrutiny of decisions should both be welcomed by all those in positions of power. But not in Northampton it seems.
And when they go to these extraordinary measures to try to save face and spin the truth then you really start to worry about the future of local government in our town.