Cuts in Democracy – Money Should Be Spent on Neighbourhood Wardens
The very disturbing news that the Conservative Leadership of Northampton Borough Council have ‘Given Notice’ to the four Neighbourhood coordinators, if true, is yet another example of their total obsession bordering on a Stalinist control that they have over the council and the Conservative Councillors without any consideration for the residents of Northampton.
Neighbourhood coordinators are the only front line staff employed to organise public open meetings (meetings that this administration will clearly as they have demonstrated do anything to avoid) accessible to everyone and giving people the opportunity to be involved in what the priorities are in their communities and neighbourhoods.
Last year I agreed that at least one Neighbourhood meeting in the west of Northampton should be suspended pending a review of the whole programme based on the fact that the area was too large and unmanageable.
What in fact was the problem was not the principle of holding neighbourhood meetings and being held accountable but the fact that the areas weren’t based on geographical areas that were compatible but on the number of coordinators the Council employed.
It was completely back to front, because in any organisation where priorities for funding and services have to be made you decide on what it is that has to be achieved first and then provide the necessary resources, including staff which is why last year I agreed that at least one Neighbourhood meeting in the west of Northampton should be suspended pending a review of the whole programme based on the fact that the area was too large and unmanageable.
What will anger many residents is that any review that may have taken place hasn’t involved asking them what they need or explained what the purpose of the review was.
It seems that the administration’s view is now to push on as far as possible before the 2015 election in the knowledge that this like the coalition Government is a one term administration which is lurching from crisis to crisis, relying more and more on WNDC announcements to give the impression that they are delivering.
I have been told that a leading member, in fact a Cabinet member has said they are cutting the co-ordinator posts because they will be replaced by the new Parish Councils.
In itself a strange, if again true, position given that the decision to even go ahead with the consultation on whether to progress Parish Councils hasn’t been taken and what happens if the people vote against, as I believe they will once they realise it will cost them up to an additional £50 a year.
The argument of course will be that the savings made from removing Neighbourhood coordinators are necessary as part of the Councils budget proposals for 2013-2014.
It will be interesting to see if it is factored into this year’s savings to cover any shortfall in the savings made from cutting police funding etc. made by the Conservatives in the budget passed in February.
As they say, we are we are,
What the estimated £200,000 savings from cutting these posts should be used for is to support communities by employing five additional Neighbourhood Wardens and increasing the coverage across Northampton which at least would make up for some of the damage they have inflicted on the residents through unnecessary cuts to public safety.
The shame of course is that in February Labour brought forward fully costed proposals to increase the number of neighbourhood wardens and keep our PCSO’s who leave in September without having to deprive neighbourhoods of their opportunity to be heard.
Proposals that were voted against by all of the Conservative Councillors.
This is an issue again of a disregard and willingness to ignore and not listen to the people of Northampton, and as someone said recently,
“What price democracy”?
and of course
“Whatever Happened to Localism in Northampton”?
I’m sure it will be the end of the matter.
Watch this space.