Clouds of Suspicion Darken
Isn’t the word ‘Beleaguered’ a great word? Meaning ‘beset by problems and difficulties’ and usually reserved, it seems, for politicians who are under a ‘Cloud of Suspicion’ and brought out by the media on such occasions.
It seems that the Clouds of Suspicion that hover over the Borough Council Conservatives have started to ‘Darken’ following the exclusion of Councillor Eldred from involvement in last Monday night’s Council meeting.
It was clear at the start of the meeting that by relegating the Cabinet Member for Community Engagement report to last the Conservatives were going to ensure he couldn’t be asked questions.
The intention, of course, with only 45 minutes for questions was to protect him and the Leader of the Council from having to answer embarrassing questions around the issues of how events were awarded to a single organisation outside of the usual contract tendering arrangements.
Awarded apparently because Cllr Eldred, if the rumours are correct, has a ‘excellent working relationship with the organisation’.
We have it on record that the Leader of the Council is fully supporting his Cabinet Colleague, and has full confidence that the contracts have been awarded correctly and that, “he would sack him in a second if there had been anything wrong”
Which, of course, begs the question if the Leader is so confident why did he personally intervene to cancel one of the proposed events?
Surely if nothing was amiss he would have backed his judgements and allowed it to continue?
Or is the ‘Vote of Confidence’ the same as that football managers receive just before the axe falls?
And if so confident why not allow Cllr Eldred to be questioned in full council or even respond to issues related to his portfolio?
Why for example was it that the Leader of the Council who responded to concerns raised by members of the arts and museums organisations over the sale of the Sekhemka Statue when it falls within the responsibility of Councillor Eldred?
There was a moment of amusement towards the end of the meeting with the ‘guillotine’ time of 10pm still 10 minutes way when it suddenly dawned on the Conservatives that the final motion of the night which would require Cllr Eldred to respond might be discussed.
A scurried message to the Cabinet Members, who up to that point had hardly spoken on any of the other issues of real importance, saw them rise to speak on of all things why it is important for Northampton in 2015 to celebrate the signing of the Magna Carta.
whew what a close call it was and no one looked more relieved than Cllr Eldred or so pleased with himself as Cllr Mackintosh who proved once again that the Conservatives prefer filibustering to facing the truth.
What it has in fact done is fuel the suspicion that they have something to hide and that the Leader of the Council despite the speculation that his Cabinet Member had operated independently and ‘off piste’ knew and sanctioned the decisions taken.
From the reversal of the decision to cancel the proposed fair and use of the Far Cotton Recreation Ground as a car park and the dishonest responses on the sale of the Sekhemka Statue given to the all party Committee to a refusal to answer questions on how events have been awarded to a private profit-making organisation the clouds of suspicion not only remain but are in fact darkening.
What it also fuels is the publics “what do you expect we know they’re crooks and only in it for themselves” perception that has so damaged politics in recent years.
I have some sympathy for the organisation who was awarded the contracts because in refusing to allow them to be questioned on the issues Cllr Eldred and Cllr Mackintosh seem happy for suspicion to also hang over the company.
Having been awarded a contract to hold a fair in Northampton, then to have it cancelled, (which begs the question of what kind of contract was it in the first place that can be so easily cancelled), surely the Conservatives should clear them of suspicion by explaining how they made the decision.
If as the Leader of the Council claims he is happy with the way his Cabinet Member has operated why not come clean – after all he won’t be able to avoid the questions forever?