Wednesday, 16 May 2012


There was a time in Local Government when if you had 10 Councillors in a room then you were sure to get a least 15 different opinions. Then somewhere during the mid 1990s all opinions blurred into first of all three camps (Tory/Lab/LibDem) and then into just one, not a Coalition but it seems at local level a Coatrition.

For this reason as an Independent I often found it nearly impossible to promote new ideas or even question the status quo at Council meetings and when I and other Independent colleagues did so our points of view were dismissed by all parties as scaremongering or trouble making we were left out on a limb, our concerns dismissed as negativity, and our comments often ignored in the press.

So thank god for the blogosphere, here we can say as we please within reason, and be judged on not just the opinion we express but also on whether or not we called it right at the time.

Today in the third of my topical shorts we revisit two earlier blogs from the past to give you an update as to how close we called it at the time:


Most of you will remember my posts on "Enterprise Managed Services" the new company that took over all of the Borough Councils refuse, cleansing and groundworks contracts in a 14 year deal. Praise came from all round the Council chamber from the big three, and in my last post on this subject I reminded readers that even Labour's Leader at the time Lee Mason commented that she didn't care who collected her bins as long as they didn't change colour! The Lib Dems agreed the deal, the Tory's trumpeted it as their own when they came to power, even going as far as to hold a re signing photo opportunity for the agreement.

Only two Cllrs at the time, myself and Malcolm Mildren spoke out, We challenged the figures, said that Enterprise had put in a loss leader as a bid and could not afford to deliver the service at anywhere near the price set. We questioned the long term security of the staff who would be transferred, and warned that 14 years was along long time if they made a mistake. We urged the Council to make its own changes to the in house delivery in order to keep control of the service. And we were ignored.

The warning signs were there, at the time Enterprise told the Council that it couldn't raise the funds itself externally to buy new vehicles to run the new contract and asked the Council to lend them the money to do so! Again Malcolm and myself tried to promote caution but our comments were relegated to the wheelie bin

So Enterprise started the contract, to begin with we had the usual teething problems, and as a result some changes were made, some at times seemed to have an effect, but only over time would we be able to judge the outcome.

That time is now approaching, and it is approaching at break neck speed. Let me tell you what my contacts down at Westbridge have been telling me over the last few days. First of all it seems as if Enterprise have lost money on the contract (surprise surprise) the figure I was told was that they have lost £2.5m in the first year. As a result of the above 15 staff were made redundant last week, with more to follow, refuse collectors, street cleaners, groundworkers all being cut back. The emergency clean up team who was successful in clearing up the mess made by their own refuse and recycling officers gone. 5 of the shiny new vehicles which Enterprise borrowed money from the Council to purchase gone. The Councils flagship recycling unit at Westbridge Depot? Closed and the staff laid off and the waste now being diverted by road to other recycling centres in the country expanding further the carbon footprint.

None of the above has hit the ears of Cllrs at NBC yet, and there has not been as much as a sausage in the local press, but when your bins are not collected as often, or you wonder where the street sweepers have all gone, or why the grass is three feet tall again. You can say I read about this on a blog from a bloke who the council said was talking rubbish when he warned them that this would happen. Rubbish indeed!


The other criticism I receive is that I must be a real anorak at times to know so much about the most inane of subjects. I hold my hand up to this one, when I get my teeth into something I can't let go, and a number of times on this blog and on the Chronicle and Echos website I have warned about the potential dangers of the Council's next to useless fountain on the market square. If you want all the gory details just click here. 

What a load of old tosh they said, its perfectly safe. And yet it seems to have been off more than it is on recently, and anyone who missed in the press the ridiculous exchange between the Chron and the Councils leader over why it was currently turned off will be tickled to hear the story which goes something like this:

Local newspaper contacts Council and says "Is the fountain turned off because of the hose pipe ban"?
The Council responds by saying No not at all and  announcing that  "the fountain would remain on throughout the drought as turning it off would not actually make any difference to the town’s water supply". "So why is it off now then said the Chron two days later"? The Council replied with the following gem

"The water feature on Northampton Market Square will be switched off during the hosepipe ban to avoid causing concern to members of the public who might think it’s wasting water, the fountain was constructed to be very environmentally friendly. It‘s full of water which simply recycles itself over and over again. However, it’s hard to spread that message to everyone who will come into town over the summer, so rather than cause concern, we’ve decided to switch the fountain off until the ban is over.”

The above was all from a spokesperson with not one member of the Councils administration willing to be quoted.

So is this really the reason that the fountain runs dry? or is not everything as it should be? You see following my concerns raised with the council about how all that recycling of water in an area where dogs, pigeons and even humans foul cannot be good for little mites running through the mist ingesting all and sundry the council at least promised to carry out regular testing for a whole range of bugs and nasty's  including TVC, E-coli & Coliforms, Pseudomonas, Legionella and of course Cryptosporidium.

For those who missed my earlier posts, my concern was that the above bugs and their spores are to be found where water has come into contact with animal faecal matter.

The Market Square Fountain is open to pigeon fouling, dog fouling and any organisms transported on the shoes of those walking through the area

These spores where present are easily ingested through the air in mist or through the mouth from contaminated water and attack those with low immune defence such as children and those with HIV

The jets in the Market Square Fountain are of course at just the right height to be ingested by small children playing in the fountain

These tests started in Aug 2010 and took place in Aug/Sept 2010 April/May 2011 June/July 2011and again in Sept 2011.

But no testing has taken place since. More worrying is that the last test for Cryptosporidium was way back in Aug 2010 some 20 months ago!

Of course since September 2011 you can count on one hand the number of times the fountain has been working, but surely nothing untoward was found at that time?

After all Cllr Clarke (as I was told by many) was just scaremongering, the fountain is perfectly safe. And the Council surely would have said something to us if there was any public health risk. And if there was anything untoward we would have read about it in the Chron surely? And Councillors would have been made aware and would have considered it a duty to tell us if there was a problem? So it must be safe.

Safe that is until you discover that the test for TVC, E-coli & Coliforms taken on Sept 2nd 2011 was proven as positive!


  1. I always like to correct any errors in the information given to me and above in the story regarding Enterprise Managed Services I suggest that the company has laid off 15 staff. I was contacted today by a member of EMS's staff to ask me to correct this figure. It seems that including agency staff working on a full time equivalent basis that the number of posts removed from the workforce is not 15 as stated it is in fact 50!

  2. This is such a shame about enterprise - we have been much happier with services lately and have had no complaints. I will watch with interest to see how this affects things and wish all the best to those people who have lost their jobs.

  3. jjenirv, we had also seen some improvement (although patchy) in Castle Ward, but only after EMS had put more operatives on the streets. Which proved the point we made at the time that they could not afford to deliver the service at the price they quoted. Now after losing £2.5m in a year and reducing staffing by 50 already the services will go to pot. One other interesting statistic that the officers on NBC are keeping away from the Cllrs is that complaint about services since the in house team handed over to EMS are up in a year by over 300%

  4. As an aside Tony, the performance of Harker, last week, laughing at the serious subject of road deaths, will someone be taking him to the Standards Board? I watched the performance and was absolutely disgusted and quite upset that evening.

    Also, how has he managed to knock up over £6000 on subsistence and travel this last year, lots of over seas trips on our money?


  5. The comment above asked 'will someone be taking him to the Standards Board' good question BUT my understanding is that Standard Boards are a thing of the past? feel sure I have read that we don't have them anymore?

  6. The Standards board for England was abolished by the Coalition and ceased to be in Jan 2012. After that date outstanding complaints are to be dealt with by the local authorities themselves with limited sanction (censure or request for training) New complaints are meant to be dealt with by the authorities themselves against a newly drawn up code of conduct and process. Northamptonshire being as it is , they still have not agreed a new code of conduct or list of new penalties. Any severe breach is supposed to be dealt with by the Police who are showing little appetite for getting involved. So reporting anyone to the standards board at present is pretty pointless and thats how the Tories want it. They do like dishing it out though and I still have a complaint out against me from September last year relaated to this blog. I am itching to tell you all about it, but the Council as with most things are taking an age and making a mess of the process and until they conclude I am supposed to keep schtum. Hope this answers your questions

  7. And your thoughts Tony on the performance of Harker let alone his outrageous claim for expenses?


  8. His behaviour anonymous becomes more and more bizarre, laughing at serious issues, ignoring legitimate questions put by opposition Cllrs, Making the rulkes up as he goes along in chamber as to when he can speak and for how long for, failing to report back to the council on bodies to which he is a representative of the Council. His expenses are a matter for him and his electorat I guess, he is very well renumatrated in allowance alone let alone expenses. I have been on the authority for three years and have never claimed a penny in expenses, but as he is entitled to do so then it is impossible to comment. What I wouldn't want though is hard up Cllrs not being able to claim legitimate travel and subsistence expenses and as such put them off standing for Council. People must remeber that the flat backbench allowance for a Cllr per annum is just over £7000 which is deductable from benefit if elegible. Jim Harker of course is hardly in this position.




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