A series of ‘self congratulatory’ Conservative motions prompted Labour members to walk out during the final Northampton Borough Council meeting before May’s election.
More than two thirds of the agenda at last night’s a bad-tempered Guildhall meeting were devoted to cabinet members, who delivered speeches listing the ‘achievements’ of the Tory administration since it came to power in 2011.
Cabinet member for regeneration, Councillor Tim Hadland (Con, Old Duston) talked of projects delivered by the Alive project, such as the North Gate bus station, the town’s new train station and opening Abington street up to traffic.
Cabinet member for housing Councillor Mary Markham, (Con, Obelisk) talked about the setting up of Northampton Partnership Homes and work to combat homelessness, thanking her colleagues and council officers along the way.
Leader of the authority councillor David Mackintosh (Con, Rectory Farm) said: “We have seen 40 different projects that have really made a difference and have helped enhance the town.
“We have had lots of projects that are underway that will bring a future prosperity to our town.”
This is electioneering at its worst
Five lengthy cabinet member reports were followed by equally long motions from the Conservative group.
Each required the council to ‘recognise’ various schemes put in place during the current administration and to acknowledge what Councillor Hadland called a ‘blistering pace’ of change since 2011.
Recorded votes were taken after each motion, which were given unanimous approval from the Tory benches.
However leader of the Labour group Councillor Les Marriott, led his group out of the council chamber until the motions had been concluded, stating he would return when the ‘real debate’ resumed.
The motions section of the full council meeting often give opposition members a chance to raise issues affecting the town.
Councillor Marriott, said last night: “Tonight at full Council we saw the Tories table five self-serving motions, which just give themselves a pat on the back, that add no value to healthy democratic discussion and certainly don’t address any concerns of our residents.
“Quite frankly, we have had enough of councillor David Mackintosh’s self-congratulation and self-serving petty behaviour. For the duration of those five motions we temporally left the council chamber. We had to make a stand.”
Similar protestations were made from the Liberal Democrat group, with Councillor Dennis Meredith calling out at one point “This is electioneering at its worst.”
Councillor Sally Beardsworth (Lib Dem, Kingsthorpe) added: “When you are the administration you can push anything through - this is a council meeting, not an end-of-term report.”
Opposition members also questioned whether the Conservative group could claim credit for all ‘40’ projects delivered since 2011.
Councillor Brendan Glynane pointed to the construction of the new rail station, which he credited to the West Northampton Development Corporation (WNDC) and the opening of St John’s halls of residence, which he said was largely a University of Northampton project.
He added: “The question is does Councillor Mackintosh thank these people for putting the projects in place?”
And summing up the Conservative’s record in office, the opposition levelled criticism at the sale of the Sekhemka statue to fund a renovation of Northampton Museum and Art Gallery; at the new bus station and the management of the environmental contract with Enterprise.
Councillor Les Marriott, said: “Many of our communities have serious litter and fly-tipping problems.”
He added that the contract with Enterprise had “delivered savings but it has not delivered the service improvements promised.”
But the Conservative group was quick to defend its record.
Councillor Phil Larratt, (Con, East Hunsbury) said: ”I think this administration achieved more in a year than the Liberal Democrats achieved in four years.”
Councillor Mackintosh replied: “These projects have been driven forward because we have had Conservative members in the council and Conservative members in Parliament.
“All the Lib Dems did was put a few lines around the town. They didn’t achieve anything.”