Northamptonshire County Council approves plans to slash libraries, buses and more

Protestors against the 40 million cuts gathered outside County Hall this morning.
Protestors against the 40 million cuts gathered outside County Hall this morning.

A minor backbench rebellion failed to scupper plans to cease running libraries in Middleton Cheney and Woodford Halse, slash bus subsidies and nearly halve the funding for Trading Standards at Northamptonshire County Council.

The delayed budget for 2018/19 was passed 35 votes to 13 this afternoon (Wednesday, February 28) with just three Tories voting against the party whip, despite several members saying how they could not support the proposals.

Tory backbenchers delivered a stinging critique of their own party's budget.

Tory backbenchers delivered a stinging critique of their own party's budget.

A frosty meeting saw public speakers from Brackley and Middleton Cheney, among others, tell how the cuts to libraries would be a loss into their communities.

Poignant speeches told how elderly residents would be cut off without buses and many lashed out at the Tory strategy of freezing council tax in previous years.

Cabinet member for finance Cllr Robin Brown stopped several times during his budget speech to listen to heckles from the public gallery.

“What these interruptions show is simply a lack of understanding,” said the finance chief in response.

The Conservative front bench were heavily criticised during a frosty meeting at County Hall.

The Conservative front bench were heavily criticised during a frosty meeting at County Hall.

But the reaction seemed to prompt anger from the cabinet member’s own party.

Cllr Adam Brown (Con, Bugbrooke) said: “I’ve never been so utterly ashamed as when Cllr Brown dismissed members of the public’s concerns with contempt.

“If he has any dignity he would resign following that outburst.”

Cllr Robin Brown apologised that some of his words had been ‘taken out of context’.

“Within our own party I’m being pilloried and it’s claimed I’m causing my namesake (Adam Brown) to be ‘ashamed’,” he said.

“I would ask him to read the last three years of cabinet reports and to read the letter we have sent to our Secretary of State to see how we have worked for this county.”

Several other Tories followed suit in calling for their own cabinet to resign, stating they could not support the budget, aimed at saving some £40m.

Cllrs Sam Rumens, (Con, Kingsthorpe North) Jason Smithers (Con, Higham Ferrers) and Rob Gough (Con, Earls Barton) voted against the budget.

But some who delivered scathing speeches about their own cabinet’s financial plans then went on to vote in favour of them.

Among them Cllr Martin Griffiths (Con, Irchester) said: “It’s time for an apology to the library groups and users. I believe it’s time to apologise to the elderly people in our community who will be isolated.

“I believe it’s time to apologise for the lack of foresight. It’s definitely time for change.”

In the end the minor rebellion was not enough to stop the plans from being approved in a recorded vote.

Responding, council leader Heather Smith - who lost a vote of no confidence to leader the Conservative group last night - said: “What is absolutely clear is the budget we are presenting today has got things in I don’t like any more than the rest of you do.”