When the Northampton Conservative administration chose to change the way the Council would scrutinise and examine how they make their decisions they revealed what some of us have known for some time that they are riddled with a fear that their true intentions will be revealed.
At a Cabinet meeting last year Cllr Tim Hadland announced that “this Conservative administration and Leader is the fairest he has known”.
Some may think it was a strange statement from a Councillor who has served on the Council for almost 20 years, and who having led a coup in 2005 was the Leader of the Council until 2007.
Custom, practice and tradition at Northampton Borough Council has always been that the Chairman/Chairwoman of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee came from the main opposition party.
The benefit of this has been that even though the administration party always has a majority on the committee with the Chair being from the opposition it operated ‘apolitically’ in reviewing, scrutinising and holding the administration to account.
By taking the arbitrary decision to break with custom and practice and give the Chair to his friend and colleague Cllr Jamie Lane, Cllr Mackintosh and his ‘FAIR’ Conservative colleagues have effectively politicised the Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
In practice the opposition now have no reason to work and cooperate with the administration and some may consider that they are now free from the restraints of the established practice to ‘Call In’ whatever they feel appropriate with the consequence that the implementation of decisions will be delayed.
What was shameful in taking this decision was that the Conservatives delivered their announcement at the Annual Civic Council meeting when the new Mayor is installed.
The Conservatives undoubtedly based their judgement on the fact that this year the ceremony was to install a Mayor from the Labour party and we were unlikely to raise the issue and disrupt what should be a day to remember for the new Mayor and Mayoress.
The ‘FAIR’ Conservatives by using the Annual Civic Council as a cheap and in my view cynical opportunity to take a political advantage have now set the precedence for future meetings.
It was not only cowardly and underhand but has clearly not been thought through.
What of next year when the Council will be electing to install a Conservative Mayor and Conservative Deputy Mayor?
Will the opposition parties use the opportunity to make a political statement and/or point?
What is certain is that because of the arrogant, ‘we know best attitude’ of the Northampton Conservatives all committees will very probably now operate along clear political lines.
The ‘FAIR’ Conservatives have through their actions decided that conflict not consensus politics are the order of the day.
It may be that the Leader of the Council takes the view that keeping his Conservative Councillors ‘on-side’ through the use of patronage and awarding them roles in which they receive additional payments is one that will see him though until he leaves to pursue his ambitions of a seat in Westminster.
The losers who has little regard or time for will be the people of Northampton.
It promises to be an interesting year and one I’m looking forward to.