St James Residents' Association

For The Residents And Workers Of St James

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Monday, 14 February 2011

Letter to Residents – Save the St. James Library

With all the hard work that has been done over the last couple of months I was filled with pride that this Residents’ Association handed in a petition of over 1000 names to the County Council, and the outcome of the St. James Library is now in the hands of the Council’s decision makers. It is this Chairman’s hope that they see wisdom in keeping open our library and remember the enormous support shown by the residents of St. James. Your Residents’ Association has once again stood up for what was right and fair for the residents of an already deprived and forgotten area by both County and Borough Councils. All any of us can do now is wait and see if our children’s futures are going to be safe or destroyed.
I believe a Chairman’s job can be easy or difficult depending on the committee they have at their disposal. I can honestly say that my job as Chairman has been made easy by an exceptionally dedicated and hardworking committee that any Chairman would be proud to work with. I cannot emphasise just how much work your committee has put into producing a complete document showing all the flaws in the Council’s arguments for closure and workable options to keep our library open. I feel at times that the hard work the SJRA committee does for this area is not often seen, and from a group of volunteers who always give freely of their time and knowledge I would like to publicly take this opportunity to express my gratitude for everything they have done.
Of course it goes without saying that in such times we all need support and the SJRA is no different. We have been overwhelmed by not only having the support from our residents but also the support from Head Teachers, Councillors and both of the Sports Clubs in the area. A very big thank you goes out to the Saints and The Cobblers for adding their voice to this campaign. Not only does this add weight to our campaign but shows all their young fans that libraries are an important part of their community. I also would like to publicly thank Mary Clarke for her contribution on the document that was handed into the County Council. Without people like Mary working in the back ground supporting the SJRA our jobs as a committee would be made much more difficult. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the Chronicle & Echo and BBC Radio Northampton for their fantastic coverage of the threat of closure to our library. I could spend at least a whole page thanking everyone that comes to mind but I would fear that I would induce sleep in whoever reads this letter. So I will simply say that I have never been more proud of St. James and the people who live here. I hope that the County Council finally see that this is not just a gateway in and out of this town, but is in fact a strong and thriving community.
Before I can end this letter I cannot forget to mention one more person. Mr. Alan Moore. For those of you who do not know Mr. Moore then I would recommend that you Wikipedia the vast and amazing career this incredible and local writer has had and is still having. For those of you who know Alan or who met him for the first time on Saturday 5th February at the read in at the St. James Library then you would have been treated to an excellent story and talk from Mr. Moore. Everyone was given a real treat to speak to this world famous author who was happy to spend time with the public. Mr. Moore was happy for people to have their picture taken with him and sign many books. I have to admit that I was one of those who walked away that day with kind words written in one of my favourite books and Mr. Moore’s signature. I was truly overwhelmed at Mr. Moore and how he gave of his time in defence of library closures everywhere. So I would also like to publicly thank Mr. Alan Moore for not only entertaining us that day but also for being a friend to the SJRA and of the residents of St. James.
So as the SJRA wait for the County Council to come to their decision I can promise the residents of St. James that the SJRA will continue to fight wherever we see injustice being carried out. The potential cuts that we all face will affect areas like St. James in a massive way as it’s already an area suffering from years of cuts. This is why as I end this letter I call on all St. James residents to unite and stand together and support your local Residents’ Association by attending meetings and making your voices heard.

Best Regards
John Connolly
Chair – St James Residents’ Association

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Lib Dem Borough Council under scrutiny From the SJRA and other Borough Councillors

From: Tony Clarke (Cllr)
Sent: 11 February 2011 16:51
Subject: RE: "I Love My Park" Scheme - Victoria Park Floodlights Application
Dear All,
Like John, I am also disgusted at how this whole affair has been mismanaged and manipulated from the start.
Despite promises made by the Lib Dem Cabinet in October 2010 to consult with elected members and residents groups we now are clear that no such consultation took place.
Despite me being challenged publicly at your last meeting by Cllr Pam Varnsverry as to whether or not the floodlight scheme was ever on a list of options for the “I Love My Parks” programme I have since provided you with that list.
I have now asked on three occasions for a new list of either “agreed” or “proposed” works to be completed under the £250,000 “I love my parks programme” and still the Council have not provided me with it.
At Wednesdays cabinet, I asked the Lib Dem administration why they had not sent me the list as requested at the last months cabinet. They declined to answer. I asked them whether or not the final list had been agreed. They declined to answer, I also asked them why and how the Liberal Democrats had been able to say in their latest Focus newssheet for “Phippsville and Abington that the restoration of Abington Park Bandstand was due to be restored from the allocated £250,000 “I Love my Park” monies and yet we were left in the dark?
I have today met with the Chief Executive and the Director of Environment services to seek some clarification and to ask for comment as to what their officers are saying to local residents and whether or not any plans had been agreed.
Julie Seddon the director of Env Services told me that the decision had not yet been taken, but that she had seen a list on which the floodlight scheme at Victoria Park had not been supported. The final decision is being taken by the Lib Dem Portfolio Holder for Finance Cllr David Perkins. How he can do this without the outcome of the consultation which never took place is beyond me, but my clear view given that information is already in print in Lib Dem literature is that a political decision has already been taken.
As consequence I asked both the Chief Executive and the Director to ensure the following:
1) That they now after failing on so many other occasions provide me with an updated list.
2) They inform me as to what criteria was used for the addition or removal of any projects from the list?
3) Why Members of the Cabinet were able to boast about spending of these monies in their wards in their political newsletters when most of us are still in the dark as to what has or has not been agreed.
4) Why the Council had not carried out its intended consultation with elected members and residents groups as per its agreed Cabinet decision of October 2010
Like you John, I will not let this matter rest, The £5000 from my Cllr empowerment is still available to you should we need it to support any such scheme, but I am utterly dismayed at the possible political bias and/or manipulation that seems to be unravelling in respect of this whole sorry affair.
Residents have been lied to by officers of the Council, The Cabinet have gone back on a publicly made decision to consult, I have been accused of making up lists that did not exist (before then producing the same) Members of the administration have used the issue to further their political fortunes and promote schemes in their own wards, and natural justice and open decision making has been jettisoned.
Perhaps as the Leader of the Council has been copied into this email, then perhaps he can respond on behalf of his administration as to why they have failed to keep their word/promises and also defend the way in which any monies have or have not been allocated without member or public involvement or consultation.
Yours
Cllr Tony Clarke,
Independent,
Castle Ward
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From: Pam Varnsverry (Cllr)
Sent: 11 February 2011 16:02
Subject: RE: "I Love My Park" Scheme - Victoria Park Floodlights Application
John,
Thank you for copying me into your e-mail. Which raises a number of issues that we will discuss further at your Executive meeting Tuesday 15th February 2011.

Councillor Pam Varnsverry
St. James Ward
Northampton Borough Council
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From: John [mailto:sjrajc@ntlworld.com]
Sent: 11 February 2011 15:11
Subject: RE: "I Love My Park" Scheme - Victoria Park Floodlights Application
Hi Graham,
Only one word comes to mind “incompetent” There was no consultation, no explanation, misrepresentation, misinformation, these are the words this Chairman will be telling the public of St James up to the next election. Once again Lib Dem Councillors failing to support the residents of St James, a Lib Dem Council looking after it would seem Lib Dem areas. Of course if there is nothing to hide why do we not see the documents of the process. I call this Council to account, why were we never consulted, why were we constantly being told one thing by one Lib Dem Councillor and another thing by another Lib Dem Councillor. Why did some Lib Dem Councillors in other areas have in their Lib Dem focus telling their residents that they were successful before anyone else was told that the decisions had been made. This Lib Dem Council has once again shown St James that it cannot be trusted. As Vice Chair of The Federation of Residents Association I will also be condemning The Lib Dem Council at my next meeting over the way in which that have conducted themselves over this matter.
I will refuse to let this go and I will call on the St James residents’ Association, The Federation of Residents’ Associations, and the Residents of St James and other areas of Northampton to stand united over this obviously flawed and mismanaged process. Graham I would like you to make sure all the emails and replies that we have had from the Borough Council and from the Lib Dem Councillors are put up on our web site showing the public how we have been cheated again out of our fair share of the money pot.
One last thing Graham I am still somewhat confused as you last email to Pam Varnsverry states “Thank you for your informative e-mail and confirming that the funding has clearly not been agreed” I understand that this was to respond to the email that Pam sent you stating “meaning the funding had already been agreed. This can be evidenced as clearly not being the case!” Now I will explain as to why this is confusing because I have an email from Pam to a Mr Barratt stating “I am disappointed that the floodlights for Victoria Park are not to be considered for funding” this email was received yesterday and yet today she tells you something different. Paul Chambers has also and I quote again from an email from Mr Barratt “just had a meeting with Paul Chambers he tells me that we was not successful in our application there is still six people waiting but we are not one of them“ This clearly shows that that the Council has somewhat compromised itself in this process and should really scrap it, and start again. I want all of this information on our blog and web site so every member of the public can see just what a complete fiasco this process has turned out to be. Until this Council can show me through documentation that it was all done fairly I will continue to believe that this process favoured some areas over others.
Regards
John Connolly
Chair - St James Residents’ Association
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From: St.James Resident's Association Secretary
Sent: 11 February 2011 11:45
To: Pete Staffell
Subject: "I Love My Park" Scheme - Victoria Park Floodlights Application
Dear Peter,
I last wrote to you on 13th January about the “I Love My Park” scheme and you replied on the 14th and stated you were still awaiting the results of the scheme.
Will you please explain what exactly “results” mean and also the criteria for selection in this scheme to be considered as successful in applying?
You see, we are somewhat confused here in St. James and have reason to believe we are being treated unfairly and with contempt. You personally promised to keep me updated with any progress and inform us when a criteria was set. We are confused as the minutes of the Cabinet meeting of 13th October (set out below) clearly state “That the Director of Finance and Support, in consultation with the Portfolio Holder for Finance, be delegated authority to agree the individual capital projects and the appropriate funding, as they are brought forward.” No mention of any here of any hoops to jump through or criteria’s to be met?
This would surely suggest to anyone that all projects that have been submitted will be agreed? If this is not the case, I demand to know why our application for funding for Floodlights on Victoria Park has not been authorised against what is to this committee, a clear Cabinet level decision. Further, Cabinet also agreed to endorse “the intention to actively and meaningfully engage elected members, friends groups, local people and other stakeholders in the ‘I Love My Park’ campaign. This is clearly not happening!
In another twist and another instance of this association getting second hand information, the ward Councillor for St. James, Pam Varnsverry, recently told a member of the public that “the Doddridge Centre need no longer to be seeking funding for the project as the scheme is going through”. Indeed the Doddridge Centre stopped looking a long time ago on the basis that the Borough Council had this in hand! I can supply you with the contact details of this person if required, who is prepared to verify this statement.
This whole process seems to be coming very murky indeed, and no process seems to be apparent as to how schemes are successful or not.
The committee of the SJRA are seriously considering, if no satisfactory answer or solution is forthcoming, making an official complaint to the Local government Ombudsman.
I would very much appreciate a detailed and satisfactory reply within seven days if we are to keep our faith in this administration.
Please avail yourself of the information below,
Graham Croucher
Secretary, SJRA

Decision:
Cabinet confirmed its support for ‘I Love My Park’.

Cabinet endorsed the intention to actively and meaningfully engage elected members, friends groups, local people and other stakeholders in the ‘I Love My Park’ campaign.

Cabinet delegated to the Director of Environment and Culture, in consultation with the portfolio holder for Environment, authority to develop a range of capital projects and initiatives, to the value of £250,000, that would deliver visible improvements to the assets, furniture, equipment, grounds and landscape of the Borough’s parks and open spaces.
Cabinet delegated to the Director of Finance and Support, in consultation with the portfolio holder for Finance, authority to agree the individual capital projects and the appropriate funding, as they would be brought forward.
Minutes:
Councillor Mildren commented the report referred to different types of open space and queried whether this report would ensure their preservation as such in perpetuity. He noted the expenditure of £250,000 from capital receipts later in the agenda and queried whether any ongoing revenue expenditure would result from it. He also noted works in Beckets Park and Midsummer Meadow.
Councillor Matthews stated that he had been campaigning for the proper maintenance of Hunsbury Hill Park for 12 years, but unfortunately little had happened. Features had been removed but not replaced. Recently some improvements had been made by students from Moulton College but there had been no financial help from the Council. He welcomed the initiative. Councillor Matthews commented that at one time the park was visited by people from all over the town and that the monument in it now featured on a national at risk register; views of the town were now obliterated by a poorly maintained hedge. He hoped that the report would lead to a change in fortune of Hunsbury Hill Park so that it could, once again, be enjoyed by people from all over the town.
Councillor Crake, as the relevant Portfolio Holder, submitted a report that sought approval to a campaign being developed in Partnership with Councillors, friends groups, local people and other stakeholders to sustainably develop initiatives to enhance accessibility, usability, quality and the appearance of the Town’s parks. The Council did not have the money available to it to do this work itself. It was noted that friends groups could access funding that was not available to the Council. It was also noted that it was intended to bring the friends groups together to share best practice.
The Chair commented that the report built on some existing good work and hoped that it would spread across the Town. resolved: 1. That ‘I Love My Park’ be supported.
2. That the intention to actively and meaningfully engage elected members, friends groups, local people and other stakeholders in the ‘I Love My Park’ campaign be endorsed.
3. That the Director of Environment and Culture, in consultation with the portfolio holder for Environment, be delegated authority to develop a range of capital projects and initiatives, to the value of £250,000, that would deliver visible improvements to the assets, furniture, equipment, grounds and landscape of the Borough’s parks and open spaces.
4. That the Director of Finance and Support, in consultation with the Portfolio Holder for Finance, be delegated authority to agree the individual capital projects and the appropriate funding, as they are brought forward.
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From: Pete Staffell
Sent: 13 January 2011 16:12
Hi Graham,
I'm still waiting for the results of I Love My Park, be assured I will be in touch as soon as I have confirmation. My apologies for your meeting this evening.
Best regards
Pete Staffell
Partnership Coordinator
Northampton South/West
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From: St.James Resident's Association Secretary Sent: 13 January 2011 15:01
To: Pete Staffell
Subject: RE: I Love My Park - capital investment programme for parks and open spaces
Hi Peter,
It has been some time since our last communication on this subject so I am asking where we are with this?
We have been asked by two residents as to why nothing has been mentioned.
Will you please tell us whether the floodlight scheme has been accepted and if so when work is likely to start?
If you are attending tonight’s meeting perhaps you will bring the information with you?
Kind regards,
Graham Croucher
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From: Pete Staffell
Sent: 07 October 2010 13:41
To: St.James Resident's Association Secretary
Dear Graham,
Many thanks for your response. I would be happy to put forward the idea of floodlighting the Victoria Park MUGA for consideration. I understand the next stage will be to gain Cabinet approval for funding the I Love my Parks scheme on 13th October. Then the many schemes we've had suggested across the town will need to be evaluated. At this stage the criteria for this hasn't been set. I will of course keep you updated on progress, and wish you the best of luck.
Best regards
Pete Staffell
Partnership Coordinator
Northampton South/West
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From: St.James Resident's Association Secretary
Sent: 07 October 2010 09:56
To: Pete Staffell
Subject: RE: I Love My Park - capital investment programme for parks and open spaces
Victoria Park - Floodlights
Dear Peter,
Thank you for including the St.James Residents Association in this circular, and sorry it has taken so long to reply. Holidays have intervened.
However, we have a project that we would like to have considered and would very much like see come to fruition; The Victoria Park MUGA is a fantastic facility for our younger folk and is well used but as soon as darkness falls it is unusable and the youngsters are forced to wander the streets. Therefore, we would like floodlights installed on the MUGA, so the games do not have to stop, and the young folk have more options than to walk the streets and all that may entail.
We had have quotes ranging from £10000 - £20000, but we think the cost is probably nearer the £10000 mark, as lighting is already installed in and around the park which will reduce the cost of installation.
This subject has been discussed previously at the residents meeting and all Councillors, including Paul Varnsverry, were agreed in principle to the project going ahead, subject to funding. Indeed, Cllr Tony Clarke mentioned funding from the Borough. Minutes of this meeting are available on request or from our website.
If you require any more information do not hesitate to contact us.
Regards,
Graham Croucher
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From: Pete Staffell [mailto:pstaffell@northampton.gov.uk]
Sent: 27 September 2010 18:18
Subject: I Love My Park - capital investment programme for parks and open spaces
Dear all,
In order to further the "I Love My Park" programme, a substantial sum of capital is being sought via the Borough Council cabinet of 13th October to invest in parks and other major open spaces across the Borough. As the money, if agreed, will be capital we will need to spend it on physical assets. There is no decision yet on how many projects will be funded, but the intention is to spread the benefit widely across the Borough.
Partnership Coordinators have been asked to take the lead on identifying sites that could benefit and to this end I would like to ask you to submit ideas through me that can be considered for possible funding. All I need to know is where and what the project is and roughly how much it would cost (I can investigate this if you do not know) and whether any other funds exist "out there" that could be used to part-fund the project.
Any proposal would be subject to a full consideration of its ongoing (revenue) costs.
Please could you get your ideas to me by lunch time on Friday 8 October so that I can put them all together prior to the next stage of the process.
Feel free to pass this on to any other interested parties.
I look forward to hearing your ideas. If you have any queries arising from this message, do not hesitate to let me know. Please feel free to get in touch for a chat if that would assist you.
Best regards
Pete Staffell
Partnership Coordinator
Northampton South/West

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Northampton MP's view on library closure

Brian Binley MP
Northampton South Constituency
House of Commons
London
SW1A 0AA 1st February 2011

Dear Mr. Connolly

Thank you for your email. Can I say that I have every sympathy with the concerns you expressed with regard to the closure of the library in St James.
I fully understand the problems faced by the County Council not least because I faced similar problems when I was Finance & Resources portfolio holder in 2006 and indeed I fought against the closure of some libraries at that time.
The truth however is that the council is responsible for budgetary decision making and I have no input into those decisions. I do however have the ability to bring to the Governments attention the general question of funding in Northamptonshire and I have already written to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government expressing my concern at the low formula funding grant which has necessitated deeper cuts than would have other been the case, and I have asked for a meeting with him to discuss this matter further.
We must also recognise that the financial crisis we face was partially the fault of the last Government, not least because the last Prime Minister instructed the FSA to apply a light touch to regulatory control at a time when the banks were running out of control with regard to lending policy.
That self same Government also spent too much of our money in the public sector increasing the public sector payroll by some 20% over 10 years and it all has to be paid for.
The consequences of those policies are now evident and we face a budget deficit of £120 billion this year which means that the Government is borrowing £1 in every £4 it spends and we have to get that deficit down before we can start attacking the public sector debt mountain which will stand at some £1450 billion by 2015.
However that is not the end of the problem because, if you add Governments obligations of public sector pensions, PFI repayments and the underwriting of our banks, that figure increases to £3000 billion or £3 trillion and I am not prepared to stand back and do nothing about the situation thereby leaving the burden of our profligacy to be paid off by our children and grand children. In truth I find that immoral.
Incidentally, I didn’t know what a billion looked like so I asked a Treasury official who told me that a billion seconds equates of little over 32yrs, and that gives you some idea of the mountain we have to climb.
But back to library closures. I repeat it is not my job to take part in an argument over budgetary decisions, but as I said I will fight for a fairer share of the cake for Northamptonshire and I enclose a copy of a letter I sent to Eric Pickles, which you might find interesting in that respect.
I will also urge councillors to delay the closure of the library by a year to give you and your colleagues a little more time to find viable ways of making the library more successful.
I would however point out that some 307 people out of a catchment of 25,000 people used the library last year and therein lies the difficulty. There just isn’t enough footfall.
In conclusion can I say that I recognise that this isn’t the answer that you would want but it I an honest answer, I hope you will appreciate that.

Yours sincerely,

Brian Binley MP
Northampton South Constituency

St James End before 1965

St James End before 1965

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