The consultation on the future of our library service closed on 30th Sept, a report was produced, dated 30/09/11 barely enough time one would think to collate effectively all the information sent in, particularly as many comments were sent late on Friday the 30th.
That report has now been approved by the County Council Cabinet, at the meeting held at Silverstone on 11th October.
It makes one suspicious as to the purpose and validity of the consultation when only 1555 people took part ( County Council now say over 1600 took part) and answered loaded questions, then the report is produced in record time to be ratified by the County Council cabinet barely two weeks later. It make you wonder whether the Council are confident in the results of their document? Further, to find any information about the consultation results you have to go to the Cabinet meeting agenda webpage, it was buried where no one would obviously find it. There is no link from the homepage of the Council website, for example, however you can read them on the SJRA website www.sjra.info As expected the proposal was “nodded”through far from the majority of the enquiring public, whom found it difficult to get to such a lhard to reach location. So much for transparency and democracy! Three members of the public (myself included) did address the Cabinet to object to the documents as did several councillors, although not all councillors were against the proposal.
Whilst, justifying the proposal, Portfolio holder Councillor Heather Smith, in an astonihing outburst, attacked so called “protesters”, whom she accused of intimidating library users outside libraries whilst the consultation was taking place. She accused them of telling people not to volunteer. Another Councillor Mackintosh also blasted legitimate free speech by accusing those who complain and "protest" as responsible for the destruction of the library service! You could'nt make it up!
In truth, “Campaigners” did not mount demonstrations outside the libraries in Northampton, Kettering and Wellingborough. In fact they held stalls where they asked those passing by and library users to sign petitions in support of public provision of libraries. They also distributed leaflets which highlighted the possible consequences of the Council’s proposals, and, it must be emphasised, have not discouraged people from volunteering. It is quite astounding how the County Councillors can try and turn the blame for this present crisis on to those who are exercising their democratic right to free speech, and do not agree with the current approach. It only serves to make people think the Council have something to hide as they are being so defensive.
In conclusion, Cllr Smith’s closing remarks to the Cabinet were not reassuring, for she said that there was no guarantee that some libraries will not face closure if the proposals did not fulfil their objectives by June 2013, when the library service strategy will be reviewed. In fact some, including St. James, could close before that if the plan is not on course.
The report is flawed and nothing really has changed since the start of the year, library closures are still on the table, if communities do not donate enough money and time to run their own libraries, and St.
James is no exception. The SJRA has complained to the Council leader about the process.
Despite the "good things" contained in the report, they all mean nothing if time and money cannot be donated to local libraries.
Libraries like St. James may pay the ultimate price to save libraries in more affluent areas, as St. James does not have rich benefactors queing up to pour money in , nor does it have a wealth of people with time on their hands. Also it does not have a Parish Council , which all the affluent areas seem to have! All we are reliant upon is the County Councillors Empowerment funds, which are not guaranteed.
Two disturbing incidents have occurred recently in St. James. The first was when an elderly man was the victim of verbal and racist abuse and assualted in Victoria Park. The incident two weeks ago left the man shaken and intimidated. The victim, who regularly uses the park and encourages people to clean up after themselves and also picks up rubbish left by people, particularly those who drink alcohol, was going about his normal business walking his dog when two men approached him. The police have been informed and have told us that they are stepping up patrols in the park with a view to making arrests, but not until they have spoken to any individuals and they have had a chance to behave. The SJRA Chair, John Connolly has written to the Police asking for more direct action to protect all park users.
In an another incident on Wednesday 12th, an elderley woman had a her bag snatched by a man outside the NatWest bank on the Square. The man, aged around 45 ran off towards Victoria Park. However, a young man named Russell was boarding a bus when he heard the comotion and the woman's plea for help. The young man then gave chase and apprehended the mugger in Victoria Park, over a quarter of a mile away. Other members of the public also assisted and held the man in Althorp Road until the Police arrived. The SJRA wish to place on record our thanks to the people who assisted the the woman, who was left shaken by the incident, and apprehended the mugger, particularly the man who held the man until police arrived but most importantly the young man who selfishly gave chase, at risk to himself and tackled the mugger. We think he should have a community award as he is renewed many peoples faith in human kind and particularly young people who are so often misjudged. So, Councillors and police if you are reading come on lets thank these people particularly the young man, who was on his way to a job interview and would not take any reward from the victim.
The SJRA will be asking the police to step up patrols in the area, but potential muggers beware, Jimmy's End is not a place for easy pickings, you may well be challenged!