Workforce, Pensions and Training

04.01.19

Former Northamptonshire leader Heather Smith resigns from council

The former leader of the Northamptonshire County Council has resigned as a councillor, saying she wanted to “move on” as she feels her role as backbencher “does not serve any useful purpose.”

A by-election will now be held after Heather Smith resigned following 11 years as a councillor representing Oundle and stepping down as leader of the county council in March after two years in the role.

In her resignation letter, Smith said it was time to put the “horrendous events of 2018” behind her, stating: “I do not believe my presence will serve any useful purpose any more to the council.”

She also claimed to have suffered “shameful bullying” by Northamptonshire MPs who had called for government commissioners to be brought in to oversee the authority when she was leader, a request the government granted.

Smith stepped down from the top job at Northamptonshire on the day a report by a government inspector was published, reporting that the council had severely failing and was no longer fit for purpose, recommending the local authority be scrapped.

And in August, councillors voted in favour of proposals to create a unitary authority, scrapping the current council structure and create two new authorities.

Conservative councillor Jonathan Ekins said Smith should be ashamed of herself.

He commented: “Her quote “I do not believe my presence will serve any useful purpose any more”. How about doing something novel like representing your constituents?? She should be ashamed of herself.”

The council has had its fair share of financial woes, becoming the first in 20 years to issue a section 114 spending ban, which was followed by a second major spending ban in July.

Commissioners were appointed by the government and sent to Northamptonshire in May to help balance the books, and their first progress report in November set plans to begin rebuilding the council’s “dysfunctional” finances.

 

But in late November, the government effectively bailed out the county council as it allowed the authority to use £70m worth of capital funding, gained from the sale of its HQ, to tackle its deficit.

 

Since then, Northamptonshire CC has announced that whilst it still needs to make £43m worth of savings in its draft budget, frontline services will remain largely protected as a balanced budget looks achievable once more.

 

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