Park Library kept open, but…

December 1, 2016

Park Library is to remain open and funded by Swindon Council. This is a success for our campaign which raised 1200 signatures calling on the council to amend their proposal to include Park in the core Library service. Better open than closed. Yet the council is only funding 15 staffed hours a week. This is clearly not enough. Parks & East Walcot Community Forum will therefore be seeking to persuade the new parish council, which is being imposed on us, to provide funding to extend the staffed hours. We will be writing to the councillors who will make up the shadow parish council in our area to ask them to provide funding so that there is a service available which more accurately reflects the needs of local people. We know this won’t be straight-forward. However, we are concerned about young people who currently use the library to do their homework after school hours, and the threat to other services currently provided in our library.

Parks & East Walcot Community Forum has proposed a meeting between councillors and community organisations to discuss the setting up of the new parish, what the precept will be, what services it might support. Local communities should be involved in discussion on these questions before a precept is set. We will raise the question of support for Park Library in those discussions. Read the rest of this entry »

The local government funding crisis and how to resolve it

November 11, 2016

With the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader for the second time we have been told that this has consolidated Labour as the “anti-austerity party”. Whilst this is certainly the aspiration of Jeremy and his supporters Labour can only be judged on what it does not just what it says. The election of a left wing leader cannot transform the Labour Party in and of itself. Many of the old guard whose politics are rooted in those of New Labour are still entrenched. After the Parliamentary Party Labour councillors were the section of the party where support for Corbyn was at its lowest and resistance to a break from the politics of New Labour at its highest. Labour in office in local government is anything but an anti-austerity party. Nationally Labour has, as yet, made no attempt to build a movement against the government’s austerity programme. It has not even attempted to assemble its local authorities to discuss organising resistance to central government’s assault on local government. Each authority is therefore left to its own devices to attempt at best to manoeuvre in the face of unprecedented cuts or at worst to simply administer them without question. We therefore see the spectacle of Labour authorities cutting services, closing Libraries, outsourcing leisure services, and in some areas attacking the wages and conditions of staff. In Derby and Durham they are cutting the wages of low paid teaching assistants, precipitating strike action by a group workers who have no history of militancy. In Durham a Labour council is proposing to issue redundancy notices aimed at forcing staff to sign up to new contracts which involve as much as a 23% cut in wages1. (Read on below or download a PDF here localgovfundingcrisis ) Read the rest of this entry »

Park Library petition – Catch 22 Swindon style

November 5, 2016

Swindon Council has refused to table Parks and East Walcot Community Forum’s petition for discussion at the November council meeting. The petition, which has more than 1,100 signatures, calls on the council to amend their proposal to include Park Library in the core provision of the new Library service. Both the committees section and the Lead Member were told that we wanted the petition discussed at the November meeting. We also informed the Lead Member that we intended to put in a copy to the consultation as well. We did not receive the courtesy of a reply from her.

The head of the so-called Democratic Services has refused to take the petition at the November meeting on the grounds that we gave a copy of the petition into the Libraries consultation together with our submission. What sense would it have made not to let them know more than 1,100 people were supporting our suggested amendment to their proposals, and have it recorded in their report? Read the rest of this entry »

An attempted coup against the members

July 1, 2016

At the time of writing Angela Eagle has very generously paused her leadership campaign to give Jeremy Corbyn more time to resign. The real reason, however, is that Corbyn’s opponents are so well organised that they can’t yet agree on a single candidate to stand against him. It appears Owen Smith has collected sufficient nominations to stand. Some MPs are reportedly concerned that Smith would have a better chance of beating Corbyn than Eagle as he is ‘further to the left than her’. With the Chilcott report due out soon she will not be covered in glory. She, of course, voted for the war on Iraq.

Speaking on Radio 4 the Vice Chair of Angela Eagle’s Wallasey constituency party said that if the MPs wanted to remove Corbyn they could have simply raised the 51 nominations for a challenger. It says much of the approach of her and other PLP members that they didn’t bother consulting their local parties. Indeed Wallasey CLP asked her to vote against the no-confidence motion. Never mind they are the just the people who do the work. (Read on below or download a PDF here labourcoup) Read the rest of this entry »

The surplus and the parishes

July 1, 2016

Some while ago I suggested to Swindon’s Cabinet that they should be pressing the government to abandon their target for a £10 billion surplus by 2020. As I pointed out to them if the target was break-even then the £6 billion of cuts to local government would not be necessary. They wouldn’t even have to abandon their support for ‘austerity’.

The anti-democratic parishes proposal was premised on acceptance of the level of cuts from central government, based on the surplus proposal. Yesterday, Theresa May, one of the candidates in the Tory leadership election indicated that this surplus target, described by the Financial Times as ‘extreme’ and unnecessary, said it should be abandoned. Today the Chancellor has dumped it, citing the dangers of a recession and the economic shock following the vote to leave the European Union.

We can argue over whether the ‘austerity’ programme was necessary in the first place (obviously I don’t think it was) but this announcement provides an open door for Swindon Council to press for an end to the £6 billion cuts to local government. If the surplus has been abandoned then there is no need for this scale of cuts.

If the Tory administration does not recognise the significance and consequence of this announcement, and simply proceeds with its plans then it will be doing so for ideological reasons. Of course, we do not know to what extent the budget plans of a new government will differ from Osborne’s but the abandonment of the aim of a £10 billion surplus by 2020, at the very least offers the possibility of a scaling back of local government cuts.

There is nothing to stop the administration supporting such a move and pressing their MPs to do likewise. To proceed with their parishes proposal as if nothing had changed would reinforce the widespread feeling of the local population that they are contemptuous of the opinion of local people.

This is a letter to the Swindon Advertiser


June 21, 2016

Here’s a picture of a heron at Shaftesbury Avenue lakes. We don’t see them very often, just occasional visits. I was lucky enough to have my camera with me on this occasion.


An assault on local democracy

June 17, 2016

According to the report for this week’s Swindon Council Cabinet meeting “a high proportion of responses received expressed opposition to the parishing of non-parished areas”. In contrast there were “a number of submissions” supporting it? What number? We are not told. It’s typical of this administration that they neglect to report the results of the consultation in any detail. How many were in favour, how many against? The weight of opinion against them is somewhat inconvenient when they want to push ahead regardless of the results of the consultation.

Yet they have no democratic mandate for their proposal. At the recent election, over the whole town, the Conservative Party gained less votes than the opposition. Mr Renard may contest that the parishing issue was a factor in the loss of two seats, but the electorate was clearly not enthused by their concept of “empowering” local people by imposing parishes on them regardless of their opinion. Read the rest of this entry »

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