As the Northampton Borough Council Conservatives prepare to deliver their first budget following the success at the polls last May people are already asking if they are still committed to delivering what was in their manifesto.
Or to use a now well-known saying that first came to prominence in the early 80’s the people of Northampton may well ask “Where’s the Beef”, a question which has now been translated in the political field as
“We’ve seen the style now show us the substance”.
We actually saw the new Conservative “style” at last nights Cabinet meeting where the proposed budget was delivered by a Cabinet who read prepared scripts without hesitation, repetition or pause.
It was almost a rehearsal for the long running radio programme ‘Just a minute’ with Cllr Mackintosh in the Nicholas Parson role bringing his colleagues in to read their lines in the correct order sadly without the humour that the original programme delivers.
The question is who wrote the scripts and is it because there isn’t confidence in the ability of the Cabinet?
Whenever there has been a change of political control at the Guildhall the first thing the new administration does is to set out the platform on which to deliver the manifesto promises, always providing of course that there was a real intention to deliver the promises in the first place and not as the public have seen too often to discard them once their use to get the electorate to vote for them has been achieved.
The Conservative leadership at the start of the current administration was no different in its approach in setting a platform on which to build and I can assure everyone they were at the time determined to deliver all of the manifesto pledges.
One of the first things to be achieved was the freezing of Councillor Allowances for the full 4 years of the current Council through to the May 2015 election, the rebadging of the existing staff to Neighbourhood Wardens and the recruitment of 3 part-time Park Rangers.
Car Parking charges were as is well-known a major issue during the election campaign and it was recognised that an immediate delivery on the promise to turn all of the Northampton Borough Council owned Car Parks into ‘Pay on Foot’ and give the first hour parking free was not possible because of the need to invest in new entrance and exit machines.
However Phase 1 was introduced in the NBC Car Parks that were already Pay on Foot by giving “up to the first hour free”.
In effect if you parked for a maximum of 59 minutes – 59 seconds then parking in these car parks is free, once you go over the hour then the cost is £1.20 for the first 2 hours. Simply put if you leave before the hour is up it is Free if you go over the hour you pay the £1.20p for up to 2 hours so effectively being charged 60p an hour.
In addition parking on Sunday in all NBC Car Parks is now Free.
Of course there will be some who say that it is spin and that “Up to 1 hour free” is not the same as “1 hour free parking” which doesn’t meet the Conservative manifesto promise and of course they are they correct, but it is only Phase 1 with Phase 2 being to change all of the NBC Car Parks to Pay on Foot and then give the first hour free in all.
The numbers using the car parks in October, November and January were down on the same time last year but up in December giving an overall position in the first four months of a decrease in tickets sold and income.
The other major issues and promises that have to be delivered is the Sixfields retail development to support the Cobblers which is becoming increasingly important given the unfortunate position that they find themselves, the development of Franklin Gardens, an increase of eight Neighbourhood Wardens and four Park Rangers and the regeneration of the Grosvenor Centre, the start of which will no doubt be given as being when the new bus interchange is started and the Bus Station demolished.
It would be a reasonable stance to take but I think the public after so many years of waiting will only believe the start as being when the foundations for the Grosvenor Centre extension itself are seen to have been laid down.
There is a great deal of regeneration going on across the town in spite of the number of retail shop closures mainly it has to be said being supported, promoted and delivered by the WNDC which if the Borough Council administration delivers the “beef” promised in the 2011 manifesto will see Northampton well on its way to being a 21st century place to work and live.
We now learn that the Borough Council are planning to spend £2 million over the next two years to carry out an options appraisal of the Council Housing, in effect spending £2 million to ask council tenants if they want to stay with the Borough Council as their landlord or transfer to a housing association.
It is a crazy idea and on top of the last administrations waste of over £1.25 milion on the failed PFI bid makes no sense at all.
So after all of the talk and wholly united support for the autocratic control leadership style it is now time for the Conservatives to deliver the “beef”.
A failure to deliver will once again be seen by the electorate as the cynical conning of the public and increase the already disillusionment with the democratic political process.
So the question remains,
“Where’s the Beef”