Northampton Town Council rallies against decision to be moved from Guildhall

Posted 30th January 2024

Northampton Town Council is rallying against a decision that will see its operations move out of the Guildhall in early 2025.

At its full council meeting on Monday 22nd January, Northampton Town Council passed a motion calling for West Northamptonshire Council (WNC) to honour the decision made in January 2021 by the former Northampton Borough Council, that the Guildhall would be the headquarters of the town council on a long leasehold arrangement.

This decision was also adopted by WNC in July 2021, when they resolved to capture all approved motions made by the previous authorities that oversaw Local Government in the West Northamptonshire area.

Councillors gave their overwhelming support for the town council to remain in its traditional home and were opposed to WNC’s decision to move its operations out of the Guildhall on 1st April 2025.

The decision to recommend the removal of Northampton Town Council from the historic Guildhall was made at the recent WNC Cabinet meeting on 16th January.

A late amendment to the original cabinet report allowed the Mayor to remain in the Mayor’s Parlour and associated rooms. The report previously proposed that the Chairman of WNC should use the parlour and rooms for their offices, despite them being home to Northampton Town’s Mayoralty and civic traditions since 1864.

The first Mayor of Northampton is recorded in 1215, making Northampton’s Mayoralty the third oldest in the country after London and Norwich.

Cllr Steven Hibbert, the 851st Mayor of Northampton, said: “Whilst I appreciate the amendment, I find the proposal to evict the town council from the Guildhall petty and unnecessary.

“This proposal will isolate the Mayor with no staff offices and disconnect the Mayor from the day to day working of the Town Council, in effect fragmenting and undermining the town council’s core functions.”

Along with being the centre for local civic life, the Guildhall has served as the Town Hall for residents of Northampton and as a base for the town’s municipal operations since it was built in 1864, using funds raised by the sale of property belonging to the ‘Municipal Council of the Borough of Northampton’.

Cllr Jane Birch, Chair of the Community Services Committee at Northampton Town Council, said: “We are shocked at the prospect of being forced to leave the Guildhall, as it has been the administrative centre of Northampton’s municipal and civic operations for 160 years.

“The decision for the town council to remain in the Guildhall on a long lease was made by Northampton Borough Council and later upheld by West Northamptonshire Council. These decisions should be retained and the importance of local democratic decision making not ignored.

“It appears that little thought has been given to the history and traditions of Northampton. The Guildhall is an iconic and much-loved building, where the story of Northampton is played out in the stonework carvings and paintings adorning its interiors and façade, including a statue of King Richard I granting Northampton its first Royal Charter in 1189.

“In May 2021 Her Majesty the Queen granted Northampton Town Council her Royal Licence and Authority, allowing us to use the Northampton Coat of Arms as our symbol of representation. This coat of arms can be found throughout the Guildhall.

“The Guildhall is the heart of Northampton and has served its communities for generations. We have great responsibility as custodians of the civic history of the town and feel strongly that the building is part of this and should therefore be retained as the administrative base of the town.

“We now urge WNC to reconsider their decision and would welcome further discussions with them about the future of Northampton’s Guildhall, to ensure it is secured on a long lease for the benefit of the people of the town.”

The full motion can be found on Northampton Town Council’s website.