Labour councillor removed from Northampton Borough Council after failing to attend meeting for six months

Councillor Joy Capstick
Councillor Joy Capstick

A Northampton Borough Councillor who suffered a serious back injury last August has been disqualified from the local authority after she failed to attend any official meetings for more than six months.

Joy Capstick (Lab, Talavera) has been automatically removed from the council with immediate effect under the rules of the Local Government Act after she failed to attend a Full Council meeting or any other committee meetings during the last six months.

Press Conference with David Mackintosh and Tony Hewitt at Franklin's Gardens, about 5 Million deal to enhance The Saints' grounds. ENGNNL00120130907121213

Press Conference with David Mackintosh and Tony Hewitt at Franklin's Gardens, about 5 Million deal to enhance The Saints' grounds. ENGNNL00120130907121213

A by-election cannot take place as the election is less than six months away so the councillor position for the Talavera ward will remain vacant until May.

Councillor Capstick, who was in hospital for three months last year after she fell down the stairs, said she had been planning to attend Monday’s full council meeting.

She said: “Last year I suffered a heavy fall which resulted in very serious injuries including a broken back and punctured lung. Thanks to the skill and care of the doctors and nurses at Northampton General Hospital, I pulled through and am now some way along my long path to recovery, albeit as a wheelchair user.

“Throughout this process, I was repeatedly assured that my absence at Full Council meetings was allowable in view of the circumstances.

MNCE - Guildhall Northampton town centre, launch of regeneration plans for town. 'David Palethorpe. ENGNNL00120110623162411

MNCE - Guildhall Northampton town centre, launch of regeneration plans for town. 'David Palethorpe. ENGNNL00120110623162411

“I was aware that another councillor who was very ill had been given special dispensation by the council for her non-attendance and that was a cross party decision.

“I am very sorry that I have been unable to represent my constituents in Talavera ward recently. I had hoped to start my full duties as a borough councillor on Monday, however, this is obviously no longer possible.”

Councillor Capstick said she intends to stand again for her seat at the elections in May.

The Conservatives have also tabled an urgent item on the agenda for the full council meeting on Monday to debate the attendance records of Labour Councillors Geraldine Davies, Gareth Eales, David Palethorpe and Sivaramen Subbarayan.

Gareth Eales NNL-150117-192442001

Gareth Eales NNL-150117-192442001

Councillor Palethorpe (Lab, Billing), the Labour Chief Whip, has not attended a Full Council for more than six months and Councillors Eales (Spencer) and Councillor Davies (Delapre) have attended one each.

Shadow Cabinet member Sivaramen Subbarayan (Lab, Headlands) has not attended any Full Council meetings or any committee meetings since July 2014. He has only attended one panel meeting on litter picking in that time.

Councillor Mackintosh said: “The situation with Labour councillors has got so bad now that one of them has been automatically expelled, with four others close behind.

“Full Council and the other committees do important work in the interests of the town’s residents, and all elected councillors are expected to pull their weight.

“This disgraceful situation raises some serious questions about the calibre of people Labour have been putting forward to stand for them in Northampton, and how they behave if they are elected.

“For Sivaramen Subbarayan to only attend one minor meeting on litter picking in six months is a complete disgrace and he should resign from the Council. Labour continues to support these councillors and do not seem to think this is a problem.”

“One of these councillors is the local Labour Party Chairman, and Cllr David Palethorpe is the Labour Chief Whip, whose job it is to monitor attendance and keep discipline. He has clearly failed to even manage his own attendance, and should resign in shame.

“Over the last six months they have continued to claim allowances from the tax payer that they simply have not earned. If they had any decency they would pay it back, and I hope Labour do not put any of these absent councillors forward for election in May or we will keep reminding the electorate of their damning record.”

Councillor Les Marriott, leader of the Labour group on Northampton Borough Council, admitted that his party could have monitored things better but said he thought it was “sad” that more allowances had not made for someone with a serious injury.

He said: “It is extremely unfair. Councillor Capstick has worked very hard for constituents. When a Conservative councillor was ill in the past, measures were put in place to make allowances for her.

“Councillors might have missed full council meetings because they were acting on behalf of their constituents.”

In response to Councillor Mackintosh’s comments, Councillor Eales said it was “typical gutter level tactics that the electorate would see straight through.”

He said: “It is evident this proven philistine is lashing out petulantly, due to being sore about my retort to his syrupy analysis of 2014 and it being good for Northampton - something which remains delusional.

“For the record, any council meetings I have been unable to attend I have always had sufficient reasoning and issued apologies in advance. However, it is important to emphasise attending meetings is a fraction of what a councillor does.

“I will always unashamedly prioritise working within my ward and representing my constituents and I stand by that particular record. The Chronicle & Echo has covered many a news article over the years demonstrating my level of pro-active campaigning, so I’m confident my constituents know the hard work I do.”

Councillor Palethorpe said decision to remove Councillor Capstick was “spiteful and petty” and accused the Conservatives of “playing politics” before the election.

He said: “I think you will find the attendance records of some of the Conservative councillors could also be highlighted.

“Councillor Capstick was extremely ill and in intensive care and this has been highlighted one day after the six month period.

“I think she could have been given some leeway.”

Councillor Mackintosh said: “If Councillor Palethorpe wants to play politics he should come to the council chamber more.”

Members of the public living in the Talavera ward can contact Councillor David Mackintosh (Con, Ecton Brook) leader of the council with any issues they may have until a replacement councillor is elected in May.

Coucnillor Dennis Meredith (Lib Dem) also represents Talavera ward so residents can also contact him before May.