I have just sat through one of the best council meetings of my life!
Supporters of Kettering Town F.C. descended on the council in support of a petition that was being presented to them asking for the Council to consider classifying the old Rockingham Road ground as a community asset.
The public gallery was packed with many more people outside where the council had put up television screens so they could watch the debate. I don’t know because I was in the chamber, but I suspect there were over two hundered people who had taken the trouble to march from the old ground, through Kettering and to the meeting.
Initially the Conservative administration had refused to have any debate on the issue, but partly due to Labour’s discussions behind the scenes with the council’s leadership and the mayor where we said you cannot ignore this issue and this amount of support, a debate did take place.
I kicked it off the debate in support of the fans ,and although a spoke for a few minutes the gist of what I said could be summed up in my opening phrase ‘I want Kettering Town to play their football in Kettering’.
However, I have to concede that the stars of the show were the two independent councillors who really let rip into the Tories and in particular the leader and the members of their ruling executive committee. All of the speakers were cheered and applauded in a way I suspect the council has never seen in its existence. There was singing, clapping, chanting, and flag waving and looking at the faces of the Conservative opposite it seemed to me that they felt under siege, although I was actually surprised that not one Conservative councillor spoke in support of the club.
My favourite part of the evening however was when my Labour colleague Cllr. Clark Mitchell spoke. I knew from previous discussions that he felt passionately that the huge support from the community should be listened to because already has concerns that KBC do not engage with the community. He started by saying he supported them even though he wasn’t a football fan and had never actually watched a football match all the way through. He then said that he had never even watched England play properly to which a guy from the public gallery shouted ‘neither have we’. Even the council officers and the Tory leadership who were trying not to show emotion couldn’t help but laugh.
All in all a great night and nothing like the council has ever seen, but on a serious note, I did get the leader of the council to agree to hold informal talks with the club to see what their future plans were and whether or not the council could help them and I hope that might possibly be way forward.
After the meeting I had a couple of pints with the supporters who described the whole event of marching through the town and collectively attending the meeting, as being similar to when they marched up Wembley Way all those years ago. All in all a good night for public engagement, democracy and for Kettering.