Cllr Tom Beattie was formally re-elected as Leader of Corby Borough Council at the Annual Full Council meeting last night (Tuesday 15th September) for the tenth year running.
Describing his role as Leader of Corby Borough Council as an ‘honour of his life’, he also spoke about the sadness he felt that it would be the last Annual Council meeting for Corby Borough Council as the local authority is set to become part of two new unitary councils for Northamptonshire on 1st April 2021.
This year’s Annual Council meeting was delayed due to the Coronavirus pandemic and was held via the online platform, Zoom. Talking of the unprecedented times we have been living in this year, both the Leader of the council and Leader of the opposition, Cllr Kevin Watt, gave thanks and praise to Corby Borough Council officers for their efforts during a difficult time.
Cllr Beattie accepted the position of Leader of Corby Borough Council by saying:
Once again, thank you for electing me Leader of the Council for the tenth time. It is, of course, a great honour and a responsibility that I take very seriously.
Whilst I am honoured and happy to accept the position, this year is tinged with sadness. This will be the last Annual Meeting of Corby Borough Council that I address as Leader. And who would have thought last year that we would be holding this meeting online. Sixteen months ago how many of us had even heard of Zoom? Maybe only those old enough to remember the song of the same name by Fat Larry’s Band. And what a year and a bit it has been. As you are aware this council, along with all the other councils in Northamptonshire, will cease to exist on the 31st March next year. On April 1st two new unitary councils, one here in North Northamptonshire and the other in the West, will replace them.
As if local government reorganisation wasn’t a big enough challenge in itself, we have had to deal with a major health pandemic the like of which none of us has seen in our lifetimes. All of our efforts have been put into fighting and managing the devastating impact of Covid 19. As I speak Corby remains on the Government’s watch list of areas with rising incidences of infection. I make no apology for reiterating the advice and guidelines that we have been urging people to follow. If we do so, we can get on top of this thing, which hasn’t gone away, and avoid what would be a very damaging local lockdown.
It is great credit to the staff here at CBC that we have continued to provide the services that our residents expect from their council. In the most trying of circumstances they have risen magnificently to the challenge and I would like to pay tribute on behalf of all elected members for their efforts. Rightly we have applauded our NHS health workers who have been in the front line of the fight against this virus. But when we get back to normality, as we surely will, the role of local government workers should be remembered and celebrated also.
Whilst our focus has rightly been on dealing with the pandemic and ensuring that the new council is, to use the parlance, “safe and legal” on vesting day. We have also been faced with the challenge of establishing a new Children’s Trust to manage the care of our most at risk children. I think it’s true to say that no area has ever faced the combination of challenges that we have had here in Northamptonshire this past year.
And yet the day job goes on. I am particularly proud of the fact that we have continued to build and deliver council houses here in Corby. We have seen the first tenants move into the refurbished Neville House. We have built modular homes at Wilby Close. Purchased property at Priors Hall and have plans to create more homes for rent at Cheltenham Road and Cannock Road. I would like to pay tribute to our former Head of Housing Andrew Cotton for the work he put in and, of course, Jonathan Waterworth and Iain Smith who have jointly filled the breach since Andrew’s departure. We want the new unitary North Northamptonshire Council to continue with that commitment to council housing. Those existing councillors who are seeking election to the new council have a job to do there.
We began this evening by remembering our departed former colleague Maureen Forshaw. Mention of Wilby Close reminds me that we also lost a close friend and colleague last year in Councillor Mary Butcher. I am very pleased that that housing development is named after her. I would also like to note the passing of former councillor Joe Sims. Joe, of course, is the father of our colleague David.
On a personal note I would like to say it has been the honour of my life to lead this council. On first being asked to be a candidate for election in 2003 I said yes but only on condition that I will be a backbencher and ward representative. I have no leadership ambitions. Well, that went well.
I have to thank all those people I have worked with since 2003. The many staff, some now departed, elected members from across the political divide and all of our external partners. We have achieved a lot here in Corby and should rightly be proud of our achievements. None of it would have happened though without the efforts of all those people I have mentioned. I would like to pay particular tribute to our CX Norman Stronach who has been alongside me throughout my leadership. He has been a strong and reliable colleague and friend.
And we’re not done yet. In the remaining months left to us I want to work with you all, including opposition members, to ensure we leave a real legacy for the people of Corby. We won’t slip quietly into the night though. Plans are afoot for us to formally mark the end of Corby Borough Council. All I can say is, watch this space.
Cllr Jean Addison was also re-elected as Deputy Leader of Corby Borough Council.
Annual Council noted the appointment of Councillor Kevin Watt as Leader of the Conservative Group.
The Lead Members are as follows:
Finance - Cllr Elise Elliston
Housing - Cllr Bob Eyles
Environment - Cllr Mark Pengelly
Community - Cllr John McGhee
You can watch the meeting on YouTube using the following link; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sY_WnH2xNzo