Labour's Policies for North Northants

Labour’s Manifesto for North Northants

For too long the Conservative administration at Northamptonshire County Council put ideology before people. Their New Generation Council led to cuts in services for vulnerable people, put children at risk of harm and they failed to maintain roads and other infrastructures that play an important part in all our lives. Through their maladministration the County Council has twice been on the brink of bankruptcy.

The Government had to impose two Commissioners to bring some financial and governance stability to the council and a Children’s Commissioner to oversee the setting up of an Independent Children’s Trust to ensure that vulnerable children were safe. However, the NCC was found to be unfixable and the government decided to break up the county and form two new Unitary Councils.

The legacy left by the Tories is the demise of Northamptonshire County Council and the end of seven well run, successful and solvent Borough and District Councils. Not a record to be proud of and these same people want to be in charge again.

What would Labour do differently

We will aim to bring about real change. We will balance the in year budget and set realistic, deliverable budgets for the future which will protect those most in need. We will work to ensure our services are supported by motivated, valued staff, sound infrastructure and good IT.

We will be realistic. We know the deficit left by the Tory administration is dire and will take years to turn around into a sound, stable and secure financial position for the new council. We will put in place sound policies and practices to work with partners, both statutory and in the business sector, to grow the local economy. This will be a high priority post the

Covid 19 pandemic which has impacted on local businesses causing uncertainties around employment for many of our residents.

We will not repeat the failures of the NCC.

The Caller Report (the government appointed inspector) said of the Tory administration:-

“Budgets appear to have been set almost by faith. Targets were imposed without understanding of demand, needs or deliverability. Living within budget constraints is not part of the culture of NCC”

The ‘New Generation’ council did not work and millions of pounds were wasted leading to deeper cuts to services. Cuts not efficiencies. Unfortunately the tax payers of the new authority will bear the burden of paying back these debts for decades.

The Vision under Labour

  • Labour will provide the Council with a sound financial base
  • Work with the Children’s Trust to ensure our children are safe and Invest in schools to meet the needs of all children
  • Labour will put people before profit, delivering a compassionate and caring Social Services for vulnerable adults and older
  • Labour will stop the waste of millions of pounds on agency staff and consultants by becoming an employer of
  • Labour will put people at the heart of decision making by holding meetings around North Northamptonshire and by having meaningful consultations with
  • Labour will keep public services in public ownership and will focus on public services for the public from libraries to community
  • Labour will protect our environment and deliver a clean, green, sustainable future to make North Northamptonshire carbon neutral by
  • Labour will support our historic towns and villages to recover from the pandemic with access to services including public transport.
  • Labour will build better and secure council and affordable homes for all and will with deal rogue landlords in the private
  • Labour will fix potholes promptly as part of our mission to deliver safe and secure roads.

Regeneration and Growth

North Northamptonshire is one of the fastest growing parts of the country. Labour will engage with developers to ensure we can support the increase in population. We are committed to taking a firm line to make sure employment opportunities and facilities for all the community are in place before houses are built – not after.

Housing

Labour will build more council houses in North Northamptonshire following the example of Corby who have built more council houses then Manchester. These houses will be built to a sustainable environmental quality standard ensuring that the Unitary Council meets its climate change commitments. We will offer a mix of suitable tenancies at affordable rents and secure tenancies.

Developing houses is not just about buildings but creating communities for the future with a sensible mix of housing. This mix will include different tenures within the development to cater for the aspirations of the residents, whether through living in a council property or a shared ownership property. We will work with Co- operative Housing Associations to ensure social housing stays available for residents use and not sold on.

Nationally homelessness is on the increase with many contributing causes – financial, family break up, addiction and mental health problems. Most of these issues have been exacerbated by the Covid pandemic and society will feel the repercussions for years to come.

Another growing cause of homelessness is an uncontrolled rise in rents in the private housing sector which has caused hardship for many families. Unaffordable rents can lead to homelessness which puts significant pressure on councils to house the families affected.

These damaging private sector rent increases are outside the control of local councils and we believe there is an urgent need for legislation from national government to better protect residents. There should be an accreditation scheme for private landlords which ensures that their properties are up to decent home standards. These standards need to rigorously applied and monitored so that councils can identify rogue landlords and improve the quality of private sector housing standards.

Employment

Labour will work with all employers to help bring decent and sustainable jobs into North Northamptonshire and will seek to help broaden the base of the economy to ensure we do not become overly dependent on businesses in the distribution sector but instead have a sustainable mixed economy delivering better paid and higher value jobs.

Labour, working with financial partners will establish a significant venture capital fund to make direct investments in high technology, green and innovative businesses in North Northamptonshire.

Town Centres

Labour will work with partners to create a common parking policy across Local Authority Car Parks and to identify and introduce a range of local parking solutions to meet the local problems of each neighbourhood. Supporting this will be the provision of in-house neighbourhood wardens also responsible for parking issues and enforcement as is operating in Kettering.

For far too long, too much investment has been made into out of town shopping centres. This has lead to the deterioration of our town centre shopping areas. The out of town shopping centres have their place but Labour believes that now is the time to start investing in our town centres with day and night time provision, a family friendly offering.

Labour has already shown the way in Corby with new shops, a civic centre, a theatre, a cinema, an international swimming pool, restaurants and a family friendly night time economy.

The Covid 19 Lockdown has had a major impact on the high street and only planned investment by Labour can give them a chance to reverse the damage. Doing nothing is no longer an option.

Local Businesses

As a Unitary Council we will use local companies where it is sensible to do so. Preston has shown that spending on local suppliers and judging the best value to the community has yielded benefits of c

£200m to their local economy without damaging services. We will work to ensure that the Authority pays all supplier invoices within at most fourteen working days and will look to arrange to make timely progress payments on its capital projects so that its otherwise profitable contractors are not forced out of business due to cash flow problems.

Labour will make sure that the Unitary purchasing policy puts as appropriate weighting on quality local service not just price to help North Northamptonshire suppliers.

Youth employment and skills

The pandemic has caused a rise in unemployment and for young people this has added to their anxieties. Prior to Covid 19, too many young people were trapped in the vicious cycle of not having the experience needed to get a job, without a job they cannot gain experience. Post Covid this situation is exacerbated.

Labour will increase the number of apprentices the Unitary Authority employs. This will be part of a ‘think apprentice first’ People Strategy so that we can look to develop our employees skills and provide opportunities for personal growth.

Labour will offer significant incentives to small businesses, employing less than 30 people, to employ a young person for a year. There will be appropriate controls to ensure young people are not exploited and the grant will only be paid at the end of the year. We will also encourage our suppliers and contractors to employ more apprentices.

Children and young people

Children’s Services

The Labour flag ship Sure Start schemes, which work to ensure all under 5s get a proper start in life, are well known for their record of success, with thousands of children and their families benefitting from their services

Despite their proven record, the Tories have continually attacked and cut their funding. Labour will work to bring back children’s centres as part of our Prevention and Early Help strategy. We will establish rolling four year funding agreements so that Children’s Centres can properly plan for the long term.

We know that a good education is a key route out of poverty. Research shows the difference in cognitive performance between disadvantaged children and their peers is already noticeable by the age of three. Investing in early intervention will save taxpayers millions later down the line, so we will look at how to embed these services within our communities, so they can reach vulnerable families and children as quickly as possible.

We will work closely with the newly established Children’s Trust that was set up following the abysmal Tory record of failure in Children’s Services. Failure that put our most vulnerable children at risk of harm.

Labour will ensure that the Trust is properly monitored and will work

to bring Children’s Services back in house as soon as possible.

Education

Labour will ensure a fair admissions policy at every school. The Tories have stood idly by while schools have made it ever more difficult for ordinary parents to successfully apply to the school of their preference. Labour will take a proactive approach and work will all schools, and in the last resort will apply to the Regional Schools Commissioner to use statutory powers to ensure that local children get a fairer chance of being admitted to their local school.

We will put in place a properly funded local programme to replace existing old and worn out schools. Labour will work with organisations such as the Cooperative movement and the Regional Commissioner to effectively forecast the order of new schools across North Northamptonshire.

Youth Provision

Under the Tories provision for young people was cut to the bone. Youth centres were closed and the number of youth workers reduced. This retrograde step led to an increase in antisocial behaviour and young people in need of support were neglected.

Labour will work with schools to make sure sport is an important part of the curriculum – but it is equally important to raise activity levels for our young people out of school time. More active lifestyles have physical and mental health benefits that have been put at risk by continued Covid lockdowns over the past year. We recognise that taking part in sport activities can be unaffordable for some young people. Labour will introduce, as a minimum, a series of free swimming lessons and sessions for young families and young people during school holidays.

For children to learn effectively they need to be well nourished. Labour will ensure that school meals are nutritious and affordable.

Labour will build on Corby’s successful School Dinner campaign and replicate this across North Northamptonshire. Labour will also appoint a Food Justice champion to drive this agenda forward.

Social Care Children

North Northamptonshire Council will be the corporate parent of every child in care.

Labour will:-

  • Make it simpler but no less safe for people to adopt or foster looked after
  • Evidence shows that there is a need for new Children’s

We will open new homes owned and run by the Council.

  • Ensure every help possible is given to support families to prevent children being taken into
  • Ensure there is no gap between decision making and
  • Ensure children in care are supported to return to their families where
  • Ensure all young people whose appeal rights have been exhausted are protected and supported until they are aged

Adults

Labour will work with partners in the NHS to ensure that health and social care is seamless and transparent at the point of need. It is vital that people get appropriate support when discharged from hospital. We will ensure there is clear information for both the patient and their family so their needs can be met.

Prevention is better than cure

We will invest and work with partners to put in strategies and adaptions to enable people to remain safely in their own homes. Labour will commit to significant investment to support fall prevention programmes, recognising that investment in mobility aids, household adaptions and assistive technology solutions are the most successful way forward – the funding is already there in the capitol programme – it just needs to be spent in a timely manner.

We will re-instate the support for informal carers that the Tories axed. Labour will invest in a proper support infrastructure that will ensure that informal carers are able to access training, support and real respite help.

For those requiring domiciliary care it is essential that the care is of the highest quality. We will have a clear and robust care strategy. We will work with providers to ensure that our residents needs are met and that their privacy and dignity is maintained.

Labour will aim for a safe, caring, high quality care service with a workforce trained to a high standard and who feel valued and motivated. We will work with the CQC to aid us in our aspiration that our registered services will become outstanding in the near future.

Valuing the Voluntary Sector

The pandemic has highlight the value of our voluntary and charity sectors, they have stepped up to the mark and supported our communities.

Labour recognises that we more then quadruple every pound we put into the voluntary sector as a result of the time and effort put into the community by the voluntary organisations. These organisations have suffered significant funding uncertainty over the past years, which has negatively impacted on the support that they are able to give to the community.

The former Boroughs and Districts have extended grants for one year to organisations but there is still uncertainty around future funding. Labour would ensure this level of grant funding is maintained for the next four years across the sector as a whole, therefore alleviating the uncertainty around funding.

At the time of writing, both Cransley Hospice and WACA, amongst other organisations, are at risk of displacement which would cause major impacts across the wider area. The North Northamptonshire Council will take into its ownership a number of operational buildings. Labour will look at ways that these buildings can be utilised by key voluntary partners to ensure continuity of their services.

Labour will create a £1m opportunities fund to enable organisations to bid for other grants and lottery funding, bringing in money to support the community. We will ensure that:-

  • Grants go to the deserving, not the well
  • Grants will be awarded for a 4 year period and be rigorously monitored against agreed service

Community Safety Policing

Residents need to feel safe in their own homes and when they are out and about. The Tory Government have cut Police and PCSO’s numbers since they have been in power. In 2011 police strength in Northamptonshire was 1306 by March 2019 it was only 1187. This is despite a population increase from 692,000 to 747600 over the same period.

Tory promises to increase the number of police on our streets is misleading, employing ‘more’ police officers will only bring the numbers up to where they were before Tory cuts. Therefore, not a true increase.

We recognise the reassurance that PCSO’s bring to the community. Labour will work with the Police and Crime Commissioner and senior police officers to match fund PCSO’s for priority areas – each one cost c£41k so we would expect them to be focussed in key areas.

Street Lighting

Community safety is not only about police numbers it is also about public perception of feeling safe. Street lighting was cut by the Tories leaving the streets dark and people, especially women and older people, feeling unsafe when going out after dark. Labour will look at how street lighting can be brought back using the latest environmentally friendly technology such as solar powered lighting.

Community safety zones around key locations

Over the last few years there have been many fatalities and life changing injuries on our roads. The figures for 2018 were 31 people dead, 288 serious injuries, 1041 collision injuries and 1172 slight injuries.

The community knows that road speed kills, however, the Tories took a retrograde step by switching off speed cameras in the county.

Labour will restore a proper network of speed cameras across the unitary so that fewer families get the dreaded knock on the door from a Police Officer telling them a loved one has been killed. We know this will not be popular with some people but the safety of our residents is our priority.

Working in partnership with the Police we will implement 500 metre community safety zones around areas that are frequently used by the most vulnerable people such as schools, health centres, retirement

homes and children’s homes. Labour will require all new schools to have safe drop off points.

Within these safety zones there will be better street lighting, quality CCTV, more dropped kerbs, road crossings and targeted use of police and other community resources. We will employ Community Wardens to ensure the safety of our residents.

Infrastructure and the Environment

The North Northamptonshire Unitary Council will employ thousands of people and has a duty to reduce pressures on the environment and to set a good example to all other employers. The recent lockdowns have shown that a major reduction in pollution is possible, by for example more people working from home, but changes to the way we work needs to be done in a way that does not harm the recovering local economy.

Labour will explore setting up a Climate Crises resource centre, which will co-ordinate local data, provide advice and training, and guide the unitary authority on specific issues, such as the quality of local water resources and any threat to our biodiversity. We will also set up a Citizens’ Assembly to give residents a voice on climate issues and increase engagement.

Labour will aim to make the Unitary Council carbon neutral by 2030 by taking simple and affordable actions including an energy audit of all council premises, planting more trees and installing more wind and solar powered street lights. We will have an environmental impact thread running through all our policy making and require all our departments to include the subject in all reports in the same way that equality is a standard reporting item. We will look to standardise infrastructure across the new unitary and bring new technology such as electric charging points to areas that are lagging behind.

We cannot afford to ignore the Climate Change Emergency our children’s future depends on what actions we take now.

Ending wasteful and expensive landfill

Labour voted to declare a Climate Emergency and it committed to

reducing the unitary authority’s carbon footprint. It is a priority for us to implement climate change mitigation measures and to deliver a strong reduction in CO2 emissions. We aim to achieve a carbon neutral North Northamptonshire by 2030 by developing strategies for waste collection, recycling and energy recovery that will protect the environment going forward.

Labour will also look at investing in a Waste Management site within the area as these facilities currently exist outside the county. This will reduce the environmental impact of transporting waste to other parts of the country. We will monitor air quality and respond swiftly when actionable levels are reached in our region.

Labour will ensure that we have sufficient Sustainability Officers to monitor the protection of our natural environment and biodiversity. On day one we will task officers with making a priority of seeking solutions to reduce the risks of droughts and flooding, solutions against heat stress and protection of local biodiversity. We will also work closely with volunteers to boost tree planting, tree care, pro-forestation and re- wilding of suitable areas

We will prioritise energy efficiency and the reduction of fuel poverty. We will work with our partners in North Northamptonshire and beyond, local businesses and social enterprises on a campaign to achieve sustainable solutions. Labour will facilitate upskilling and training for Green Jobs, to boost a green recovery post covid.

Better value public transport

The Tories have slashed bus subsidies year on year, which has affected our rural communities as well as the urban areas. The Conservative council appeared incapable of negotiating with bus companies – leading to reduced services during the day and evening services almost disappeared, leaving people in villages and outlying areas isolated.

Labour will engage in robust negotiations with bus companies so that we can get better bus services for our residents.

Labour will encourage and support community bus services to address the increasing need within our communities, especially for older people.

We will also be proactively seeking to improve the rail services within and outside North Northamptonshire. The current plans for future services will have a negative impact on Wellingborough’s resident’s ability to travel to London and will make the area less attractive to investment. Labour will seek to address this as a priority.

Highways – Roads for everyone

The Tory legacy for highways is a bill of circa £300 million which will be needed in order to bring our roads in North Northamptonshire up to a good standard.

Labour will introduce a fair system for highways repairs so that money goes to where it is needed the most. We will gradually move to a system of carrying out more permanent repairs as opposed to patching. This will include updating and improving road markings as a number of junctions are now dangerous due to disrepair. This will be more cost effective in the long term. Labour will bring road repairs and infrastructure back in-house. This would mean that decisions are made locally by accountable people for the benefit of residents not distant shareholders.

Labour’s key priorities for major road schemes are to work with the Government to provide a by-pass for Isham, dualling the A43 from Moulton to Kettering and the A45 between Thrapston and Stanion. These are needed to sustain North Northamptonshire’s economic competitiveness.

Encouraging walking and cycling

People will walk or cycle more if they feel it is safe to do so. For some, there is not even the choice due to the lack of infrastructure. Active travel measures benefit not only the individual but also the wider society. Fewer cars on the road means less congestion, less damage to the built environment, less injury or death to pedestrians, cyclists or car occupants and improves air quality.

Since 2016, nearly 500 cyclists have been killed or seriously injured in Northants. On average 50 pedestrians are killed or seriously injured each year. Labour will therefore ensure at least £1m of extra money is spent making walking and cycling safer. We will work with developers to ensure new housing developments have cycle ways and these are primed to be adopted. We will have a comprehensive network across North Northamptonshire of joined up walkways and cycle ways separate from the roads. Labour will appoint a cycling and walking champion to help support this and will seek out funding opportunities to promote these heathy activities.

Public services provided publicly

The Caller Report criticised the Tory run Northamptonshire County Council for its negative culture causing poor staff morale leading to poor delivery of services. The report clearly states that the failure of NCC was down to the very poor governance and financial mismanagement of the Tories.

Labour will treat its staff as partners in delivering services of a high standard. We will invest in staff training and IT support, so that they can get on with the job they do best – delivering quality services efficiently.

We will implement the Living Wage to ensure no employee works for poverty wages. We will also review the use of zero-hour contracts and phase them out.

Council Tax

For some residents, there is a need to offer council tax support – we will harmonise council tax to 15% over the next 2 financial years. This will ensure the hardest hit families are treated fairly. In comparison the Tory plan is to harmonise to 25% from day one, despite the impact this will have on people already suffering hardship following the aftermath of the pandemic.

Town and Parish Councils

Labour will look to Town and Parish Councils to have responsibility for their local services where there is a desire to accept that responsibility. A business case will show that it can be managed and monitored effectively and where it can provide value for money. Assets and funding will be transferred appropriately to the new councils to avoid funding shortfalls.

Books and Libraries

Anyone who has visited our libraries knows what a brilliant service is provided by our staff to the public.                              Our library staff and our communities have been hit by the drastic cuts brought about by the Tory mismanagement. When these centres were shut due to the pandemic, it caused major problems for those who needed these centres most – it was an early warning about what might happen if we lost this service for good.

Labour will work with communities to ensure our libraries remain open for use as community hubs where they are needed. We will also make these venues available to the local community at a peppercorn rent so that these valuable buildings remain in community use.

Health, Leisure and community services

Labour believes it is morally wrong that people living in affluent areas can expect to live over ten years longer than people in deprived areas. Working in partnership with the Health Service and Government, we will develop an anti-poverty strategy, establish and implement long term programmes to vastly reduce these differences over the next twelve years in order to increase life expectancy to an improved level.

We recognise the importance that leisure and cultural activities play in the health and wellbeing of our residents, therefore, Labour will bring

Leisure Services under one North Northamptonshire Service. There is currently a mixed level of provision across the area and a number of these facilities need significant improvements to bring them up to a standard fit for ongoing use.

Labour will thoroughly review existing facilities as part of a clear provision strategy. This will lead to prioritisation for future spending such as a new swimming pool for Kettering. Because several areas have been underfunded for many years, it is expected that this programme could take several years to complete.

Street Scene

The current shared services operated by Corby and Kettering, which covers street scene, street cleansing, ground maintenance and council housing repairs, is a model that we will roll out across North Northamptonshire. We will bring services back in-house where it is appropriate to do so starting with the Wellingborough waste contract which expires in February 2022.

In the past, PFI contracts were seen as an option but these deals are never good financially and lead to councils having to make long term payments with little flexibility.

Labour will not take out any more costly PFI contracts – and look to close down existing ones where it is financially prudent to do so.

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Promoted by Ian Cameron on behalf of North Northamptonshire Labour. All at The Labour Party, Suite 23, Corby Business Centre, Eismann Way, Corby, Northamptonshire, NN17 5ZB

 

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