Q & A, You ask and we will try to answer. Desborough Labour Party
Desborough Labour Party

If you have a question please click on the ‘Labour Listens’ button at the bottom of this page and fire away.(We will not divulge your name or personal details)

There is also an opportunity to comment on any of the content of this Q and A section, or submit your own question, by clicking on the ‘Q and A comment’ button at the bottom of the page. We do not ask for any personal details but may add your comments / questions (anonymously) in this section.

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1.  We have been asked about –  The ‘Neighbourhood Plan’

Up to date situation-

The last meeting of the Town Council Neighbourhood plan sub-committee was held in December 2020. I chaired that meeting and had to trawl back through a lot of documents to try and get us up to speed (I spent a lot of time on it and had 5 pages of notes prior to the meeting). Bear in mind that no one in that room had previously had any involvement in the process.
We made good progress and ended the meeting on page 35 of the document (Policy 2). I indicated at the end of the meeting that I wanted at least two more meetings in January / February to try and get the job done. Sadly, owing to the current covid circumstances, it has proved difficult to get this done and I am very disappointed. As I understand it, the Clerk of the council has been in contact with the consultants but has not been able to fix dates for the meetings.
We have given a commitment to get this matter resolved as quickly as possible. But bear in mind, again, that it may well be a completely new group of people as most of those involved previously are not standing for election on 6th May 2021.
(Phil Sawford 13.04.2021)

2.  We have been asked about- Political Groups

Q. Why have you stated in your document ‘we will work with Labour colleagues on the unitary council’.  Why is this not ‘work with all those elected to the unitary council’ ?

We would obviously seek to work with anyone who shares a common interest on any particular issue but the nature of the beast is that the big issues tend to divide along party lines. Much of the decision making process, at that level, is determined through ‘political’ groups and much of what can be achieved depends on the amount of respect and influence an individual has within that group.

In practical terms three people from the Desborough Division can’t be on every committee, sub-committee, working party, etc., so in order to make sure that local people have an effective voice it would make sense for Labour representatives to work closely with their Labour colleagues. Also on those occasions when you find you are the only Desborough person in the room you might just get a little bit of support on a particular issue that affects your patch.

(Desborough Labour Party 13.04.2021)

3. We have been asked about – the Lawrence’s Site

Well, here is a personal view from St Giles Town Council candidate David Larmour and he isn’t pulling any punches.

Everyone is agreed that the site is currently a mess. What was originally designated a mixed use site (and the promise of a new supermarket) has been ignored for years till now on the eve of an election suddenly there is a proposed plan for housing. Great that it is social housing but two questions remain is housing really the best option? and if it is, what standard will it be built to? The lowest standards or to higher more sustainable standards?

The world has changed over the past year and the high streets of major towns have suffered badly. There is increasing evidence that smaller towns with more local facilities have taken up some of the slack. In many cases independent traders have actually seen more trade as people are not commuting to the larger towns to work.

Why cannot we provide simple easy rental options for new starts and for people to try out new ideas. There is some scope for experimentation in Desborough. We always seem to fall back on more houses as a solution. Houses are needed but is the immediate town centre the best option?

So, even if housing is the best option for that site what will we end up with?

Run of the mill three bedroom semis or could we demand housing built to the highest environmental standards. The recent development at Goldsmith Street, in Norwich shows what is possible. We should demand more, expect better and fight for the best.

Labour is pressing for a full public consultation on these proposals which so far have only be shown to a privileged few.

(David Larmour 13-04-2021)

https://www.norwich.gov.uk/…/late…/1929/goldsmith_street

You can get in touch with David through our Candidate Contact page (click below)

What do youthink? Please click on ‘Q nd A Comments’ box at the bottom of this page to let us know your thoughts.

 

4. We have been asked about – The Loatland Leaflets

Q.  ‘Why are we putting out leaflets in the Loatland Ward when there will be no election for the Town Council ?’

The simple answer is that people in the Loatland Ward will still be voting for three representatives on the North Northants Council and the Fire, Police and Crime Commissioner.

The longer answer is the mechanics of elections.

  1. We were told initially that under the government guidelines members and volunteers could not deliver leaflets but we could engage a professional company.
  2. Having decided to engage a professional company (in the interest of the safety for all concerned) we had to get them printed and delivered to the company to fit in with their schedule.
  3. There are a growing number of people who choose to vote by post and we want to ensure that they get information beforehand. This means that we have a very short window to get them out. So we have to get everything off to the printers before nominations are closed.

In short – the leaflets are printed, the delivery is booked and there will still be important elections in the Loatland Ward in the coming days.

(Andy Coleman 14-04-2021)

5. We have been asked about – Health and well-being

Questions have been asked about our statement on health and care workers in ‘Labour’s policies and priorities for Desborough’.

‘We will campaign for investment in our health service and fair pay for health and care workers. They deserve more than a clap in the street and a slap in the face from the government’.

https://www.desboroughlabourparty.org/labours-priorities-for-desborough/

  1. The NHS and Adult Social Care services have taken on greater prominence during the current pandemic and people are aware of the many issues that affect these services – recruitment, retention, investment, remuneration, protective equipment, etc.
  2. The new North Northamptonshire Council will have a significant role in Adult Social Care.
  3. The record shows that the majority of voters are influenced by national rather that local issues when it comes to local elections.

There is no doubt that the Town Council will have very little influence in such matters but we felt it reasonable to state where we stand as a local party.

(Desborough Branch Labour Party  14-04-2021)

6. We have been asked about – Parties, Candidates and Policies

Q. ‘Where can I find details of the policies of the other parties and /or candidates in the local elections?’

I am sure leaflets will be delivered soon containing details and information.

(Phil Sawford 14-04-2021)

7. We have been asked about – CCTV cameras

Twelve new CCTV cameras for Desborough, the latest position is –

The existing four cameras will be replaced with new ones at the following locations.

  • Station Road / Havelock Street
  • High Street / Station Road
  • High Street / Dunkirk Avenue
  • Chaplin’s Lane / Dunkirk Avenue Recreation Ground

Eight new cameras are due to be installed at the following locations –

  • Dunkirk Avenue Recreation ground / Bowls Club
  • Leisure Centre 1, The Grange
  • Leisure Centre 2, The Grange
  • Braybrooke Road / Hilltop Avenue
  • Braybrooke Road / Straight Furlong
  • B576 / Ironwood Avenue
  • Lower Street / War Memorial
  • B576 Rothwell Road / Lower Street

Installation work is due to start in the near future.

(Andy Coleman 15-04-2021)

8. We have been asked about –  The ‘Neighbourhood Plan’ expenditure.

From the Town Council documents it would appear that the actual budget set aside over the period from 2016 is £85,000

The total actually spent to date appears from the records to be £45,866.

2015/16 = £15,271    2016/17 = £7,045      2017/18  = £22,290     2018/19  = £0      2019/20 = £0      2020/21 = £630      2021/22  = £630

It can be seen that over £44,000 of this was spent, or committed, before most of the current members of the council were elected in 2018.

The bulk of the money appears to have been spent on consultants, local printers, meeting venues, maps and leaflet delivery.

Since 2018 the Council has actually spent £1,260 on the ‘Neighbourhood plan’.

(Phil Sawford 15-04-2021)

9. We have been asked about – The Neighbourhood Plan (Delays and Budgets)

Q 1.  Did Desborough Town Council take their eyes off the ball on the Neighbourhood Plan?

Q 2. Why have DTC budgeted £10k annually for the Neighbourhood Plan?

I think it is a fair point about the NP and ‘taking eyes off the ball’. I would make the point that it was the Conservative administration that all resigned and left the NP on the table.

In respect of the Desborough Labour Party  it has to be said that there were no Labour Councillors from 2015 to 2018 and for the first twelve months, after the 2018 elections,  there were only two Labour members of the council. Jo Watson joined us in April 2019 so she has now been on the council for two years and David Larmour was co-opted in September 2020 so he has had less than a year.

The whole thing has been something of a ‘moving feast’ and probably could have been progressed quicker. However, it must be said that at no point have ‘Labour’ been in control of the council.

From May 2018 we were all initially expecting to serve for just one year. For the early period we had no Clerk of the Council and the new clerk walked in to quite a mess as his predecessor had been off sick for some time. It would also be fair to say that the early days were, to some degree, dominated by the Library issue.

When we did pick it up it was clear that the October 2017 version of the Neighbourhood Plan had, to some extent, been overtaken by events and there were questions as to whether or not it was ‘fit for purpose’. Fifteen Councillors have resigned from the council since the 2017 version was printed and continuity is a factor on a larger project such as this.

It was agreed that we would engage ‘Navigus’ to conduct a health check on the Neighbourhood Plan and they reported back in October 2020. Their report was quite damning really and we almost had to go back to the drawing board to start again.

The sub- committee (along with a member of the public and a local business representative) met in December 2020 and ploughing through all the documentation was not made any easier by the current situation (Zoom).  The meeting in December 2020 which I referred to in my earlier response (see above) made some significant progress but there is still some way to go.

With regard to the budget, I believe the council will need to engage consultants to get the Neighbourhood Plan completed, when finished it will have to be printed and an on-line version made available, it will be subject a process of evaluation (and possible amendment) and I have no doubt that there are significant further costs to come.

Whatever the situation after 5th May I do believe that there will be ‘eyes on the ball’ and the Neighbourhood Plan will finally get completed but I would hesitate to try and put a time scale on that.

(Phil Sawford 15-04-2021)

10. We have been asked about – The financial problems that brought about the demise of Northamptonshire County Council.

There have been numerous press articles on this issue (see links below).

Basically, the County Council could have opted for a small increase each year in line with the government cap (2% or 3%) cumulative. Over time, across the county. this would have amounted to a significant sum. Instead they went with ideological dogma and insisted on zero increases and almost went bankrupt. Now we will all pay the price and could spend years trying to get the budget back on track in the new North Northants Council.

Desborough St Giles candidate Dean Cornwall says –

‘A consistent and stable rise over a period of time to continue to provide essential front line services is the duty of any responsible authority. What we have seen at the previous County and Borough Councils is a decision not to do this and cut services. It should not then fall to lower tier councils to pick up the pieces and introduce excessive precept rises to cover the gaps in services that should be provided by the future unitary authority. It should also not be the case that a Parished area gets to pay twice vs an Unparished area, as was the case previously’.

Mick Scrimshaw – Labour Councillor from Kettering who has been chair of the Scrutiny Committee at County hall for the past two years writes –

‘Agree totally about small tax rises around the level of inflation would have been better and stopped the large increases over the last few years which have all been at the maximum allowed by law, but it was also about how they spent the money they did have, and how inefficient they were. Other councils up and down the country were much more imaginative and efficient in how they dealt with the national cuts imposed on them, and found better ways of doing the same things at a lower cost, including finding investment streams to bring in extra income without the need to rely on the simple answer of putting-up council tax.

NCC also spent an absolute fortune setting up their ‘Next Generation Working’ project which was supposed to outsource the entire work of the council to private and other organisations with the idea that using a private business model would automatically be better and cheaper, but none of that was true.

There were no proper business cases prepared or robust preparations, so the Tory Councillors arguing for such a model were not able to say how it would actually work. All this at a time where other councils and the sector as a whole was moving back to in-house provision because it had proved to be better and more efficient in the long run.

The Tories rely on the fact the electorate think they are good with money but this is simply not true! You often hear them talk about their personal business experience assuming the public will think as they do that this is a good thing, but actually the motivation for running a private business and an organisation providing public services is totally different and running the finances of such large organisations like councils is nothing like providing a solid bottom line for a business. What is needed is more imaginative thinking and thinking designed to ensure good services are provided as the priority, very often the Conservatives and their business experience has simply led them to take advice from others without really understanding it, and certainly without questioning it which is why the previous scrutiny role at NCC and other councils has come in for so much criticism’.

Attempt to stop county council spending due to ‘financial crisis’ was ignored THREE years ago | Northamptonshire Telegraph (northantstelegraph.co.uk)

Northamptonshire forced to pay the price of a reckless half-decade | Local government | The Guardian

Northamptonshire’s cash crisis driven by ideological folly, councillors told | Local government | The Guardian

As Austerity Helps Bankrupt an English County, Even Conservatives Mutiny – The New York Times (nytimes.com)

What do you think? Please click on ‘Q nd A Comments’ box at the bottom of this page to let us know your thoughts.

11. We have been asked about – the roles and responsibilities of Parish and Town Councils in the new structure and, will Desborough residents end up paying more in taxes?

There has been a significant change and now the larger communities also have town councils.  The process of deciding who pays for what is already being discussed and it should eventually bring some parity. If elected, Labour Councillors will not sit silently whilst some areas have to pay for services and others do not. This matter has already been referred to on our website (reprinted below) –

‘The new structure of local government will bring many changes. Former 3rd tier councils (Towns and Parishes) along with newly ‘Parished’ towns (Kettering, Wellingborough, Corby,) will become 2nd tier councils and will have a different role to play which could mean extra costs with no additional powers.

There are many existing anomalies in terms of what the towns and parishes do and what they pay for across the four areas (Corby, East Northants, Kettering & Wellingborough). These anomalies are already being looked at and, in order to create a ‘level playing field’, there will be a great levelling up (or levelling down).

What are they looking at?  Grit bins, grass cutting, graveyards, flower beds, markets? Basically anything where in one former local authority area parishes have traditionally covered the cost and in another area they haven’t.

What will happen? It may well be that, in the very early days of the new Unitary Council, Parishes and Towns will find that they have some difficult decisions to make about local facilities and services.

What are the implications for the ‘Parish Precept’ and your local tax?  Will it go up or down?

Whatever the outcome remember you read it here first’.

(Desborough Labour Party 16-04-2021)

12. We have been asked about – the Parish Precept

Since 1894 Town and Parish Councils have had the right to levy a local tax called a ‘Parish Precept’.

From 1974 to 2012 all the local parish and town councils were funded by an annual grant from the Borough Council.

This arrangement ended in 2012 /2013 and from then on the Parishes and Towns were given little choice but to levy a ‘Parish Precept’ to fund their own spending and running costs.

In Desborough the ‘Precept’ is set each year as part of the Town Council budgetary process and the amount for each year since it was first introduced is set out below.

Desborough Parish Precept 2012 to 2022

2012 / 2013                 £10,000

2013 / 2014                 £10,000

2014 / 2015                 £20,000

2015 / 2016                 £67,000

2016 / 2017                 £350,000

2017 / 2018                 £349,700

2018 / 2019                 £280,000

2019 / 2020                 £75,016

2020 / 2021                 £74,999                                              

2021 / 2022                 £73,785

Since 1974 there have only been three years when there were no Labour representatives on Desborough Town Council.

Can you guess which years?

(Desborough Labour Party 17-04-2021)

13. We have been asked about – safety measures at the pedestrian crossing in High Street.

The installation of safety barriers and bollards adjacent to the High Street pedestrian crossing is set to go ahead. In response to safety concerns the Town Council set aside £19,000 in the current year’s budget to get this work done.

The matter has been discussed with the Highway Authority and following a site meeting and negotiations on slight alterations, the proposals have been amended. The cost of delivering these works is now estimated at £7,709.22 plus VAT which is a considerable reduction in the original amount set aside.

Labour Councillors will press for this work to be carried out as soon as possible.

(Desborough Labour Party 23-04-2021)

14. We have been asked about – the lack of candidates for the Town Council

There will be no Town Council election in the Loatland Ward as only two people have offered themselves as candidates and there are six seats on the Council. (Important elections to the North Northants Council and the Fire, Police and Crime Commissioner will go ahead)

Only three sitting Councillors are seeking re-election to the Town Council (all in the St Giles Ward)

In 2015 twelve councillors were elected and in 2010 ten councillors were elected. Of these twenty two elected Councillors only one is standing this time around.

  • Why is this?
  • Why have the Conservatives abandoned Desborough (only 2 candidates for 12 seats on the Town Council and none of the 3 North Northants Council candidates are standing for the Town Council)?
  • What happened to ‘taking party politics out of local government’ (There are no Independent candidates standing for the Town Council)?
  • Why have so many people simply walked away?
  • What has happened to our, once thriving, local democracy?

Well we can all have our theories but why do you think this is?

It is a very real issue for the town as we go through the biggest changes in local government for over 40 years. Desborough people deserve some answers and anyone can make a comment in the ‘Q and A Comment’  section.

Please click on ‘Q and A Comments’ button at the bottom of the page to let us know your thoughts.

(Desborough Labour Party 24-04-2021)

15. We have been asked about – our position on Green, Re-cycling and Environmental issues.

This is what we have said on our ‘Priorities for Desborough’ page.

Litter is a problem in the town (including discarded masks) and we need more litter bins. Some of these should offer the facility to separate the recyclable material from general litter.

We need more bins for dog waste in and around the town.

We will encourage more tree planting wherever possible.

Labour Councillors will press for more recycling facilities in the town and encourage people to use them.

Labour Councillors will seek to ensure that any new development in the town is built to the highest environmental standards with sympathetic landscaping.

(Desborough Branch Labour Party 25-04-2021)

16. We have been asked about – The Ise Valley development

The original application for Outline Planning permission for ‘Desborough South’ was submitted on the 19th January 2016. See https://www.kettering.gov.uk/planningApplication/122648

This proposal was refused on the 18th May 2016.

It was due to go to appeal in July 2016 but the appeal was cancelled ‘The hearing arranged for 19 July 2017 has been cancelled because the appointed Inspector has reviewed the evidence submitted and deemed that a Public Inquiry will be required’.

The matter went a public hearing on the 31 October, 1 November & 4 December 2017. The inspectors decision (21 pages) can be seen at-

https://www.kettering.gov.uk/planx_downloads/0044.2016.KET.ADN_-_Desborough_(land_to_the_South_of).pdf

The first thing to note is that Outline Planning permission for ‘Desborough South’ was approved by a Government Inspector before ten of the current eleven Councillors were members of Desborough Town Council.

The only exception was the winner of the Loatland  Ward by election on the 16th November 2017 who would have taken his seat on the Council between the date of the Public Inquiry and the publication of the  Inspectors decision (22nd December 2017).

Further comments on this important matter will follow.

(Desborough Labour Party 30-04-2021)

The Government Appointed Inspector

 

So, in all fairness our Borough Councillors did their job, they listened to local people put the case to the Borough Council Officers and the original plan was refused. The notice of refusal can be seen at – https://www.kettering.gov.uk/planx_downloads/0044.2016.KET.DN.pdf

 

It was then taken out of their hands when it went to appeal and the Government appointed inspector presided over a Public Enquiry held on 3 days in October, November and December 2017.

 

The Inspectors decision is contained in a letter dated 22-12-2017 (see above). In that letter (Point 22) reference is made to the latest version of the Neighbourhood Plan.

‘local people should argue there are better sites available. However the housing sites argument seems to be going round in circles at the moment, until the sites around Desborough have been subject to more scrutiny it is difficult to say whether DE/210 will be needed or not. The Neighbourhood Plan and the Part 2 Local Plan both attract little weight due to the uncertainties that surround them, but the Neighbourhood Plan is a clear indication of the strength of local feeling, which was also obvious at the Inquiry. Nevertheless, up until the issue of the latest version of the Neighbourhood Plan, the site has always been in contention for housing development and has been favoured by the Council’s officers’.

The Planning Inspectors decision was made with full knowledge of the content of the Draft Neighbourhood Plan (published in October 2017) and, in respect of the Ise Valley development , the Neighbourhood Plan was, in effect, overtaken by events before the Town Council had completed the process.

In short, The Conservative controlled Town Council spent over £40,000 on producing  a document that proved to be no help whatsoever in protecting the Ise Valley.

 

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