How Many Politicians Do We Need?
Northampton Conservatives in turning down the Labour proposals to cut Councillor allowances last night demonstrated once again that they self-serving, greedy and unwilling to take their noses out of the trough.
I’m not sure this is going to make me popular with some of my colleagues. but a related question I have been asked on more than one occasion is why are Northampton taxpayers paying Councillors twice for doing what is effectively the same job?
In the past it has been easy to explain that the roles were separate because of the different responsibilities between the Northamptonshire County Council and Northampton Borough Council.
A distinction that is no longer easy to define.
The County Council has responsibility for Highways including Street Lighting, Transport, Education, Health, Adult Social Care, Youth Services, Children Services including Adoption and the Fire and Rescue Service amongst many others.
The Northampton Borough Council has responsibility for Housing Services in Northampton which are going to be transferred to an Arm’s Length Management Organisation, (ALMO), and the Environmental Services including Waste collection that has been transferred to Enterprise a private company.
So what else is left for NBC?
NBC Legal and Financial management and the provision of benefits et al has been handed over to the NCC managed LGSS (Local Government Shared Services) where services are provided to NBC for a fee.
In fact NBC is a customer and doesn’t even have a representative on the LGSS Board which is made up of people from NCC and Cambridgeshire Council.
This is of course the result of a reversal of the long-standing Northampton Conservative policy to campaign and support a bid for Northampton to be an Independent Unitary Authority.
One of the major reasons for the policy was that in simple terms the residents of Northampton would know where their taxes were being spent and who was responsible for the services being provided without the current dislocation and confusion as to who does what.
A Unitary Northampton Borough Councillors would be accountable directly to the residents for the Borough with each Councillor being responsible to an electorate of approximately 4,000.
With the transfer of responsibility for services to the County Council and Private Companies the Northampton Conservatives have effectively ensured that it would never be able to gain Unitary status and if anything has strengthened the position of the County Conservatives to be a County Unitary.
There is no doubt that Councillor Mackintosh and his friends would like to see a Unitary Northamptonshire County Council and a reduction in the influence of local people voting for District Councils.
Which brings me back to the question of how many Northampton Borough Councillors should there be if it is effectively the County Council and Private Companies who are making the decisions that matter to the people do Northampton.
The current situation is that NBC is made up of 45 Councillors who cost the tax payer in the region of £470,000 a year.
In addition within the Borough boundary there are also 17 County Councillors of who 11 are also Borough Councillors who claim over £120,000 a year in allowances.
The list of ‘dual hatted’ Borough and County Councillors who receive between £15,000 and £40,000 a year in allowances is in the public domain for those who are interested.
Many of the ‘dual hatters’ are the Councillor for the same electorate which reinforces the public perception that not only have politicians got their snout in the trough but since giving themselves a 23% increase in allowances at the County have now also got both front trotters in as well.
The argument of course that they put forward to justify taking even more of the tax payers money from the trough is that both roles are full-time jobs with huge responsibilities.
It is perhaps why the Northampton Conservatives having castigated the Liberal Democrats for increasing the Borough Council allowances by up to 63% have now changed their tune and are only too willing to accept it into their bank accounts.
I started work on the 10th August 1964 and not once throughout a working life that spanned a number of careers did I have the luxury of being paid twice for the same job.
So with the size of the Northampton Borough Council being reduced by over 50% is it now time to ask the Electoral Commission to revisit the town and realign the boundaries of the Borough with those of the County and reduce the number of NBC Councillors to seventeen?
An argument not to do so may well be that seventeen wouldn’t be enough to carry out the business of the Council?
The Leader appears to have appointed himself to post equivalent to that of self – elected Mayor and would only need a cabinet of two leaving 14 Councillors to sit on the Planning and Overview & Scrutiny committees.
The savings to the tax payer would be over £250,000 a year and perhaps more importantly for the electorate the excuse of
“Sorry that’s County/Borough responsibilities”
that Councillors use all too often would be a thing of the past.
I’m sure such a move would be contentious and resisted by those who would lose their income and power base but will be a continuing debate.
Given the number of times the issue has been raised with me it would be interesting to see what the public think?
Not that they would be listened to by the Northampton Conservatives whose heads are so far into the ‘trough’ as was demonstrated by their determination to resist giving anything up last night.
The attitude of the Northampton Conservatives being very much those of their colleagues in Westminster.
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