'Call in the commissioners...this week': Northampton MP makes no apology for criticising council's Tory leadership

Michael Ellis has offered no apology for his criticism of outgoing county council leader Heather Smith.
Michael Ellis has offered no apology for his criticism of outgoing county council leader Heather Smith.

Government commissioners should be called in to run Northamptonshire County Council "within days" according to Northampton MP Michael Ellis.

The libraries minister has been a vocal critic of the Conservative-run county council for a number of months now and publicly withdrew his support from the Tory council leadership in October.

Yesterday, Max Caller CBE delivered his scathing report into the financial management of the county council and recommended that Government commissioners took over running all but the authority's planning services between now and 2020.

Northampton North MP Mr Ellis urged the Government to follow his recommendations without delay.

He said: "I have continually spoken out about this.

"It is a tragedy that this situation has been allowed to happen.

"I am calling on the Government to intervene to rescue the situation.

"I think the commissioners should come in as soon as legally possible, preferably within days, and seek to repair the damage done."

Commissioners are teams of Government officials - often ex-chief council executives - sent in to take over the leadership of council departments in order to balance books and improve standards.

In 2015, three commissioners were sent in to run Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council, for example, after it was found to have a "pervading culture of bullying, sexism, suppression and misplaced political correctness."

Yesterday, Councillor Heather Smith announced her resignation as the leader of Northamptonshire County Council - suggesting she had been made a scapegoat for its failings during her two years in charge.

Visibly emotional, she said: “The personal pressure of vicious public attacks by four Northamptonshire MPs, seeking to make me the scapegoat, has not been pleasant for anyone to witness."

Mr Ellis yesterday made no apology for those "attacks" and even suggested the other cabinet members at County Hall should consider their positions

"My job is not to protect other politicians, even if they happen to be part of the same party," he said.

"My job is to protect my constituents.

"Clearly the alarm that I raised five months ago has proven justifiable, which, regrettably, this report has confirmed."

And asked whether other cabinet members should follow suit in resigning from their positions, Mr Ellis said: "The report speaks for itself.

"I think everyone who is in a position of responsibility has to look very carefully at their position."