Wednesday, 3 February 2010

If music be the food of politics, play on no more

At yesterdays full County Council meeting, 14yr old Simon Williams pleaded with the Council not to carry through their threat to cut £238,000 from Northamptonshire Music and Performing Arts Service in next years proposed budget reductions.

His public address was clear, impassioned, reasoned and delivered on behalf of thousands of people who have signed petitions written letters and emails to councillors. all asking the County Council to think again.

The meeting was at the time discussing a Liberal Democrat Motion which called on the Tory Administration to do just that.

So far so good, but hang on whats that I spy creeping into the Council chamber? hypocrisy? deceit? party politics?

You see the Tory administration responded to the Liberals motion with an almost identical amendment seeking to do the very same thing. In other words to save the music service from themselves! It basicaly said "we the Conservative administration must do all we can to make sure that the cuts proposed by us the Conservative adminstration, are not carried out unless we can find the funding from elsewher! Political schizophrenia at its very very best.

I got my opportunity to address the Council, and Simon who sat in the public gallery, and I congratulated him on his speech, and I also apologised to him on behalf of the whole Council for the fact that he and thousands of others in the County had been taken for Fools by the Politicians.

I explained to this very intelligent 14 year old, that I believed that the Tory administration had no intention in the first place of cutting the funding to the music service, and that history will show that immediately after they had announced their draconian plans, that their own Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Northampton North Michael Ellis had come our fiercly and publicly to announce he would fight the plans to the end, I reminded the Council Chamber that it was indeed one of their administrations own back benchers that had gone on to propose an alternative plan to save the service at a recent Overview and Scrutiny meeting which had met to discuss the proposals.

And here, now, we had in full public view, in the Council Chamber the Tories and the Liberal Democrats trying to out do each other to see whose motion or amendment to save the service would be agreed first.

The Tories were obviously upset, it wasn't meant to happen like this, THEY were the ones who were supposed to come to the rescue of our young musicians at the eleventh hour, and here we were not too long past breakfast, with the Liberals stealing their plans from them without even a hint of irony.

I told the chamber that the Tories reminded me of my favourite Horse trainer Richard Hannon, who often puts three horses in a race, allows one to attract all the press and market speculation before bringing home a different winner at 33/1 under every ones noses. In other words the Tory Plan was a stalking horse, it was a smokescreen to grab the medias attention and to draw it away from the real serious threats to services proposed in the budget including further cuts to care for the elderly and vulnerable in our community.

I told them that their behaviour was unforgivable, and that they were both playing politics with the future education of our children and were fighting simply over who could grab the headlines first and claim in their pre general election leaflets that "WE SAVED THE MUSIC SERVICE"

There were a lot of bowed, lowered heads, a lot of people squirming uncomfortably in their chairs, and not one denial from any quarter of the chamber that my revelations and opinion were wrong.

Today's Chronicle and Echo does however carry half of the story, squeezed for space the Chron's reporter Wayne Bontoft (a very able and considerate scribe) struggled to get in quotes from 14 yr old Simon, the administration, and an opposition member Cllr Sally Beardsworth who ironically agreed with my assertion that it had all been a smokescreen. To their credit the Labour Party (also unreported) told the administration how despicable their deeds were.

So I never got a quote in the press, but hey ho I can live with that, neither did Andrew Simpson (Lib Dem PPC for Northampton North) who spoke as a member of the public after Simon, to crys of "Bring back the young lad he was better and more coherent than you" and Micheal Ellis was also there waiting to get a line in on the story. They were both to be disappointed, but no doubt they will write their own versions of events in the avalanche of election leaflets on their way to us in the coming weeks.

And for my part I get to inform you all, of what really went down on the day in this blog.

What I witnessed was a cynical, despicable manipulation of the publics concern over proposed cuts to services responsible for the education of our children, which were never going to implemented in the first place.

All delivered in the name of political spin, oneupmanship, electioneering and sleight of hand covering up other serious cuts which really will come to fruition and will affect the most vulnerable in our society.

And they ask me why I think our politics are broken, they ask me why I no longer trust any of the parties to serve the public with any dignity, and they ask me why I am now Independent of the whole lot of them.

If music is to be used as the food for political skullduggery, then as I say in the title to this piece, let it play no more.


  1. Tony – a well wrote account of the boll*cks that go on in the council chamber, and the timely warning of the amount of crap we can expect coming though our letter box in the next few months.

    My advice for what its worth is be it Blue, Red or Yellow just bin it

    Norman Adams - Northampton

  2. Thanks Norman, you had to have been there to witness it in all its glory. Later at the same meeting the Lib Dems proposed a motion to ask the Council to sign up to 10:10, the nationwide carbon reduction campaign which David Cameron, Boris Johnson and Tory Councils nationwide (as well as the government and Lib Dem leaders/councils)have already signed up for to, NCC are already meeting the target, so it was a real winner for the Tories, but they voted against it! because the opposition had brought it forward as a motion! You couldn't make it up, the politics of several mad houses all under one roof.

  3. Tony

    First, the 10:10 debate.I spoke and urged Conservative Councillors to throw this motion out, because it was totally irrelevant to the position NCC finds itself in.Ref the award from the prestigious Carbon Trust,we have gone well past the 10:10 goal, which might be a realistic bar for the poorly performing Borough to aim for, but is like swapping a Rolls Royce for a Trabant in our case.The point seemed to be lost on you and the others (LDs and Labour).Our achieved reductions in CO2 emissions put us in a higher league - the Premier to use a soccer analogy, alongside the likes of M&S + IKEA.In both mitigation and adaptation, we would be going backwards to have supported a poorly thought out motion.And as for urging us "to strive to be a regional leader in environmental achievement".,..well, I rest my case.Conclusion : it was a typical, unashamedly political LD motion, which got the heave ho it warranted.

    Now to the budget and the music school.What shocks me at a time of increasingly severe belt tightening is the head in the sand attitude of the non Conservatives.It is clear from Damien Lawrenson's presentations about the effect of formula on Support Grant to NCC - over the coming several years -that we have to look for real savings.That is fact.That is unavoidable.Now, what I want to hear from you is where you would accept budget cuts,which ones, by how much -or whether you would support an increase in Council Tax over the 3.5% proposed by us. I await your constructive comments!


    Michael Clarke (Hackleton)

  4. Michael,

    Opposition comments are always welcome.

    On 10:10 I take a view that our staff have worked very hard to achieve sizable reductions in Carbon Emissions and I cannot understand the Council not wanting to reward that effort at every turn? Your anology about swapping Rolls Royces and Trabants, is wrong because you wouldn't lose one by accepting the other (personally though I would prefer the Trabant, slightly less carbon emmisions than a roller) A more accurate analogy would be an actor turning down a golden globe award just because they had won an Oscar, or a restuarant saying no to a Michelin Star just because they have a rating in Egon Ronay. I hold that if the officers had suggested it then the administration would have signed up, and the only reason it was turned down is that it was raised on an opposition motion. Yes there were trying unashamedly to make a political point (a bit like the Tories on the Music Service) But we have to end this yah boo politics and do what is right rather than what is politicly expediant.

    On the budget, yes I would consider going above the 3.5% which is around 10p a day and I would have no problem proposing 12p a day or even 15p a day if it protected services to the most vulnerable in our society. But I don't think we have to. Alternative savings are their if we look for them. How much has expenditure on Senior Management shot up under the Tories over the last 5 years? We have a larger management team, and a Chief Executive on £197,000 a year when we are proposing to cut the meals on wheels service!

    And how much do we waste? £750,000 or more on the failed Carrilion deal? £250,000 so far on a failed bid to turn Weston Favell into an Acadamy? How much more on consultants and agency staff?

    Finally what has any of this to do with the main subject of the blog? i.e. The Tory group putting the music school cut up as a smokescreen or stalking horse, before inviting their own shadow ministers and PPCs to come out and rally against the plans? What was the Tory amendment on Wednesday if it wasn't a unashamedly political motion to try to beat the Lib Dems to the claim of being the first to save a service never under threat in the first place? Not one member challenged my accusation in the chamber and no one has since.

    I will take that as an admission that you are both guilty as charged.






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