Time To Reduce the Size of the Trough
Northampton – How many Councillors do you need to pay for?
After a substantial time away from blogging it is somewhat difficult to resume, only because there are literally so many different topics on which to begin. I’ll start with the burning issue of ‘snouts in the trough’, the bigger the trough the more eager and greedy are those who want to feed at it. Oink Oink.
As we approach the two upcoming elections in May, yes there are elections other than the General Election, we are starting to see the documents being produced that very few ever read and even fewer believe. They constitute some of the most widely distributed collective fiction ever created, and pretty poor fiction at that.
The documents if you haven’t already guessed are commonly known as the political manifesto.
This time around in Northampton there will be a flurry of activity with all parties claiming, of course, that their proposals have been “fully costed” and are deliverable whilst also claiming their opponents manifesto is a tissue of half-truths, untruths and most importantly these days unaffordable. The public will and in my view justifiably be right to be sceptical about any such claims.
Why an earth would anyone with an iota of common sense or intelligence trust for example someone who has been shown up time and time again as being untruthful, deceitful and a bully? Particularly one who has put stock in reducing the day-to-day expenditure on things like housing staff, policing and other community essentials, while tying the budgets of the Council to hideously large loans, literally selling the future to feather political ambitions of the present.
So what should happen in Northampton post the May 2015 Election?
I suspect the following suggestion is one that will not be included in any manifesto for the simple reason that it will conflict with individual councillors who put self-interest and, more importantly, their bank balances before anything else. Let me start with Northampton Borough Council which having been reduced in size by almost 60% is, with 42 Councillors costing the tax payer in excess of £500,000, top-heavy.
Put simply I believe that the ‘downsized’ Borough Council achieved by the sacking/redundancies of staff and management, cuts to and outsourcing of front line services should be accompanied by a reduction in the number of Councillors. Listen carefully and you might be able hear the screams of anguish coming from the Guildhall?
They will claim of course that it is nonsense and will ‘diminish the democratic process for the people of Northampton’. But will it?What services do the Borough Council provide the Northampton Council Taxpayer for the £196 they pay each year, which apparently needs 42 Councillors to deliver?
Grass cutting and tree pruning, events, Neighbourhood Wardens, Planning (of which more about in a future blog), car parking, museums (um!) and of course Waste collection, although not Waste Disposal as that is a County Council job.
Contrast that with the list of services that the Northamptonshire County Council, who receive £1030 of the Northampton Council Tax are responsible for and which only requires 27 County Councillors to represent the people. Education, Highways and Footpaths, Fire and Rescue, Social Services and Services to the Elderly, Children Services including Fostering et al.
It is time, perhaps, for a radical solution and with so many Councillors nose deep in both troughs this is my proposed solution, a solution that those who keep talking about supporting the ‘hard pressed tax payer’ would no doubt reject on the grounds of ‘what about my income’?
I’m suggesting a manifesto policy should be to propose that the number of Northampton Borough Councillors be reduced to 27 based on the Towns County Council Divisions. This proposal can be made to the Electoral Commission, who have recent dealings in the town with County Boundary changes.
I have taken into account a number of factors;
First of which is that the Northampton Conservatives have categorically ruled out Northampton ever becoming a Unitary Authority.
Secondly that Northampton Conservatives, by outsourcing and transferring services to the NCC, have effectively reduced Northampton to nothing more than a department of the County Council.
The saving to the tax payer in allowances and expenses paid to Councillors by cutting 15 Councillors would be c£300,000 which would be available to provide essential front line services for the people of Northampton.
The Northampton Borough Council election is in May 2015, and the Northamptonshire County Council Election is in May 2017.
I would therefore argue that the reduction in the number of NBC Councillors to 27 should be implemented in May 2017 on the same day as the County Council Election.
In practical terms the Councillors representing the people of Northampton on the Borough and County Councils would be elected on the same day and on the existing Northampton County boundaries making it clearer to the electorate in which electoral area they live.
Of course the number of those who fight to become ‘dual hatters’ feeding at the taxpayers trough will continue,
Which brings me to the other radical proposal.
If a Councillor is elected to represent the same people in the same area then why are they being paid twice?
Under my proposals dual hatters will only be permitted to claim one set of allowances either from the Borough Council or the County Council and not both. After all they’re representing the same people aren’t they and isn’t it a ‘privilege to serve’? My safest prediction for 2015, and I have absolute confidence here, is that the existing Councillors wouldn’t vote for it.
And why would they, even though the people in the next few months will be bombarded with promises and pledges that they only want to be elected to represent the ordinary hard-working people and do the best for them, one thing is sure. On May 8th this year 42 Borough Councillors will wake up safe in the knowledge that no matter what happens to the UK economy, no matter what impact austerity or poverty or homelessness has on the people of Northampton they will still have their “fat cheque for another four years”
And who’s to say that they won’t repeat what they did immediately after the County Council Election in 2013 and vote to increase the size of the trough? Oh dear.
Given that Councillor Mackintosh the Conservative Leader of the Council is constantly talking about Value for Money when criticising opposition councillors will he support cutting the number of councillors?
or as I fully expect will he reject it for the understandable reason that he would lose over £20k in allowances and perhaps given his character and history he would lose the patronage paid for by the tax payer with which he has ‘rewarded his good friends’?