Despite a number of warnings the council, which is applying for Stonewall status, passed its planning application in the knowledge that it had failed to conduct an equalities impact assessment. It also failed to consult with the LGBT community, who are the areas principal users. They have been accused of putting visitors to the area of all sexualities at risk.
A representative of the gay community said ‘both officers and members of the council have used inaccurate and inflammatory language in official documents and in press interviews. Branding service users as ‘Cottagers and Cruisers’ and ‘involved in illegal acts’ is not only offensive and insulting but has whipped up a local media storm which has reflected very badly on the LGBT community. They have got away with this by using planning law and not considering equalities and social cohesion. Their entire approach has been totally dismissive of their gay service users. Their words and actions are homophobic and by demonising this vulnerable group has encouraged homophobia
Local advocacy organisation B-Proud, who lodged the complaint have asked the council ‘how they intend to re-assure the estimated 62,000 members of the county’s LGBT community and re-gain their confidence’. They have asked to see ‘evidence of any reported ‘illegal activity’ and how ‘such discriminatory language could be used.’ There is a suggestion that the council is in breach of the Criminal Justice and Immigration act which defines discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.
Independent Borough Councillor and Parliamentary candidate Tony Clarke said ‘this blows away the image that the Lib Dems are the ‘gay friendly’ party of equality. What they say at national level just doesn’t square up with what they are doing on the ground. They are the architects of this homophobic behaviour here in Northampton and have been backed up by the Tories and Labour.’
In 2007 a young athlete, confused about his sexuality, was convicted of murdering a gay man in Northampton town centre. After meeting him in one of the town’s gay pubs, he brutally attacked him and threw his body down a stairwell. Despite this the town’s gay advocacy drop in centre and advice service was forced to close after it lost public sector funding. Northampton Borough Council has been one of the worst performing councils in the UK and has languished for years at the bottom of government league tables. In September 2009 an Audit Commission assessment concluded that it is ‘an organisation that meets only minimum requirements’ and that ‘just a quarter of local people are satisfied with how the council runs its services’.