A personal reflection of 2011

Great start to the year - We're all united behind you?

A Personal Reflection – A Year with a difference

As we come to the end of 2011 it is a time when most people reflect on the year gone and the year to come so I thought I’d share my reflections in my last blog of the year.

January 2011 was one that started with a great deal of promise, challenge and as it turns out ended with more than a bang.

My year started with a holiday in Sharm el Sheik, which I admit wasn’t on the list of places I desperately wanted to visit, but was somewhere Liz wanted to go having heard that it was a place of great interest and ideal for scuba diving.

The problem was of course that just before we went a diver had been attacked by a shark so swimming in the sea was forbidden. Then whilst there the ‘Arab Spring’ started in Tunisia and rapidly spread across North Africa to the extent that Sharm was closed for 3 days and tourists told to stay in their hotel complex while the Arab League held a summit meeting to talk about the implications.

As the year progressed we saw only too clearly what the implications have been across the whole of the Arab world, all it is claimed in the interest of seeking democratic governments with individual freedom of speech and a release from totalitarian control where one or at least a very small cabal of people determined how people should think and act.

The local challenge was to win the Northampton Borough Council election for the Conservatives centred on what was a practical, sensible and ‘Northampton Back on Track’ manifesto.

Throughout the campaign we promised to oppose cuts to front line services based on having continually criticised the previous Liberal Democrat administration for cutting services.

It also relied on promises and agreements from the Northamptonshire County Council to respect the position of the Borough Council and not to expect or try to control its direction; promises not to cut essential front line services, promises to support the police etc, which helped provide a clear message to the electorate.

History now shows that the message was right, it was trusted and for the first time in 24 years the Conservatives took control of the Borough Council.

I have to admit I was staggered to hear some of the comments from senior colleagues and members of the Conservative group on the night of the election which made me realise the difficulties ahead.

On the positive side the new intake of first time councillors both Conservative and Labour are excellent and should not be tarred with the same brush. The majority of local councillors are dedicated  to improving the areas and supporting the people of Northampton and are not self-serving as many of the public believe.

I was extremely proud in May to have been elected Leader of the Council, it was a position I was honoured to hold and a number of actions and policies were put in place which are now coming to fruition. Amongst which was the new bus Interchange, support for the Saints new stand, the phase 1 reduction in car parking charges, the Northampton Waterside Enterprise Zone, lottery funding for the Delapre Abbey restoration, additional investment in Christmas, implementation of Neighbourhood Wardens and Park Rangers, support of the police, the Grosvenor Centre Development progress and continued committed support for the elderly and vulnerable.

They were policies that Councillors across the whole of the political spectrum supported and it has to be acknowledged was only possible because of the very strong financial base the Conservative administration inherited from their predecessors and the strong professional leadership and management provided by the Chief Executive, Director of Finance and the whole of the Borough management team.

As it turned out we now know that support of the policies was not consistent from all of the Conservative Councillors at the County and Borough which at the time I described as

“Resigned as Leader of the Conservatives due to disloyalty – very disappointed”

and as many know I have as a result of the disagreement with the direction and actions of the Conservative leadership moved to the Labour Party who I believe now represent the true aspirations of the people of Northampton and not personal and self-serving political ambitions.

I have consistently been accused of being overly optimistic and will continue to take it as a compliment, it is an accusation I am happy to admit to be guilty of believing that there is nothing wrong is being optimistic.

So what of 2012, with the impending recession impacting on everyone in Northampton?

It is I believe going to be both an exciting and very worrying year to come but there should be room for optimism, we should try to look at the positives, we need to look at how we can make things better and we need to re-establish what local politics and local involvement really means.

2012 - Will this be the year Northampton is handed over to the County?

2012 will determine the future Northampton and its people, it will be a very challenging year which will determine what the future will be for Northampton with the proposed increasing merger between the County and Borough Councils which I believe will eventually lead to what will in fact be a take-over and a single authority with one Chief Executive led by the Leader of the County Council in the David Cameron role and the Leader of the Borough Council in the Nick Clegg role.

2011 was an interesting year both personally and politically, it is now the past and 2012 will be a defining year for Northampton and its people.

I wish you all

A Happy New Year