Tag Archives: Libraries

Suffolk’s NSD – a Noddy Style Democracy?

Sadly, at full council yesterday the Conservative administration used its large majority to carry on with its horrifyingly unformed proposals of divestment  – and STILL without any public mandate.

I’m sharing below the speech I made against this decision. Unfortunately, despite its undoubted brilliance, and despite equally superb and  accurate speeches by my leader Kathy Pollard, deputy leader, David Wood, and colleague John Field, all the backbench conservatives voted with their leaders rather than their consciences  to support this unformed, uncosted, un-budgeted,  and undemocratic piece of ideologically-driven decision-making.

So in the years to come, folks,  you need to remember that this decision to ‘divest’ is NOT a coalition decision. This is NOT a national decision. It is NOT based on national cuts . No, the responsibility for the NSD  lies squarely in the hands of Leader Jeremy Pembroke, his Cabinet  – and all the Tory backbenchers on Suffolk County Council with huge reservations – not one of whom had the bottle to vote so in public!

My speech against the NSD

In September this council agreed  – via its socking Tory majority –  to push through the Cabinet recommendation , the NSD

–  Which stands for… what exactly?  Me, I think Noddy-style Democracy sums up the process pretty fairly!

Now there are lots and lots of reasons to object to this Enid  Blyton fantasy, the NSD, but I’m only given 3 minutes.

So, I won’t mention their spurious 30% cuts, nor the value of the services they want to sell off or throw away .  As regards its  lack of logic and responsibility to the people of Suffolk – I’ll confine myself to quoting the Deputy Leader :

“If people don’t value a service, it won’t be delivered. If no-one comes forward with an offer to deliver it, that’s proof it’s not needed.”

(What a superbly Toytown approach to service delivery that is, by the way! So, if no-one comes forward to unblock your loo, is that proof your loo’s not blocked? )

No, my three minutes is going on the democratic deficit that led to this decision – and the democratic deficit that underpins your  subsequent  ‘consultation’.

Now, I missed last meeting for serious personal reasons and so couldn’t cast my vote against the NSD. Did it matter?  Not a jot!

Why? Because the future of Suffolk’s services lies

  • not in the hands of its half a million plus electors,
  • not in the  hands of the 75 county councillors who represent them,
  • – and, – NOT  – in the hands of the  55 Tory councillors opposite who hold a majority vote.

NO, it  has been made by my esteemed colleagues, the Leader and  cabinet.

These ten people have unilaterally decided to  ‘transform Suffolk public services”.

Last September, Council also agreed “proactive and wide-ranging engagement across Suffolk to establish whether the key NSD proposals found favour with the communities.”  Note that  weasel word ‘engagement’ rather than ‘consultation.’

I’m sorry Jeremy, but your ‘proactive and wide-ranging engagement’ is a farce. Nowhere in your ‘engagement activity’  did you ask the VITAL question, “Shall we do it?”

Instead you askedDo you understand it?” And indeed, by 21 November you had 528 responses – 63% of who DID ‘understand’  Jeremy, the concept of ‘selling the family silver’ is very easy to understand.

What people don’t understand  is WHY you’re selling it without asking the family first.

So we Lib Dems decided to hold our own ‘engagement process’. We  actually walked around, we delivered 23,000 leaflets, we visited not a single town, once – as several of the Conservative councillors say they did – but town after town over and over again and talked to many residents  about your NSD.  And, you know what? People had never heard of it.

They were appalled, Jeremy!  We didn’t get 528 responses– we’ve had over 1500, and rising.

Aren’t you – even a little bit – aware of  just how angry most people are?

Or maybe this is the area where YOU ‘don’t understand’!

Now, some of my constituents think your plans ridiculous,

Some  of them think they are reprehensible.

But maybe it’s simpler than that. Maybe they’re just WRONG.

Couldn’t you all  just admit you’re wrong?  There are lots of my colleagues opposite, who I know are privately very unhappy about what’s happening and how.  Of course you are. You’re friends of democracy – no fans of fairytales. You represent the people of Suffolk with as much passion and dedication as I do.

So why not go for it! Why not summon up the courage of all those thousands of crosses on your ballot papers?  People voted for democratic values. For Suffolk values!  NOT for Noddy Style Democracy. Suffolk is not Toytown! Playtime is over! So lets  consult properly – and LISTEN to the replies. The people of Suffolk aren’t  children. They don’t need fairy-tales. You can trust them to make grown-up decisions!

“Masterly Inactivity”: don’t bury your head in the sand!

Although most people I have talked to about Suffolk County Council’s  undemocratic, incoherent, and – worst of all – unbudgeted plans  have been very  keen to express an opinion, a few timid souls feel it safer to stick their heads firmly in the sand and hope everything will just go away.

“Its not happening,” they say. “They’ve not told us what they’re going to do. How can I do anything, when they haven’t told us what they are doing?

This reminds me of that Foreign Office strategy of masterly inactivity described by the great Sir Humphrey:

Stage 1:  There is nothing happening.

Stage 2:  There may be something happening, but we should do nothing about it.

Stage 3:  Maybe we should do something about it, but there’s nothing that we can do.

Stage 4:  Maybe there is something that we could have done, but it’s too late now.

You can see the massive flaw in this, can’t you?

Unless we press our point firmly enough – it WILL be happening. And the tragedy is, they HAVEN’T told us what they plan to do, In fact it is clear they haven’t the foggiest.

DESPITE THIS, the first tranche of ‘divestments’ are planned to happen in April:  in SIX months time! That is, the planned ‘divestment’ of:

  • Libraries
  • Independent Living Centres (these provide advice and information on equipment which can be used by disabled people)
  • Highway Services
  • Youth clubs, and Integrated Youth Support and Outdoor Education
  • Early Years & Childcare, including Children’s Centres
  • Home First (this is a social care service)
  • Country Parks
  • Transactional property
  • Registrars
  • Suffolk traded services
  • Employment enterprises, learning and careers advice
  • A record office
  • Economic Development
  • Home Shield Plus
  • Hate Crime Service

And what happens if this unplanned, uncosted, unbudgeted, unhinged piece of ideological claptrap fails, and we lose (for example) our highway service? Thats right, the one people love to moan about – the one that (unheralded and unsung) trains all its staff to man gritting lorries so we can have a 24 hour service over the winter?

We suffer, that’s what happens. And we lose people , teams and services that took a long time to train and which will be impossible to replace.. We are, in short, a lot worse off!

Though, come to think of it, thats everybody except for the Chief Executive herself. She doesn’t live in Suffolk!


‘Divestment’ of Suffolk council services: Woodbridge library-users protest

Save Woodbridge Library - and all the others in Suffolk. We love them and use them

Saturday morning in Woodbridge – and people of all ages are using their much-loved library.

Please, Suffolk County Council, will you  make clear what your plans for ‘divestment’ by April 2011 will actually mean to the library-user in the street? We know what we are fighting for – but we need to know what we are fighting against!

SUFFOLK LIBRARIES UNDER THREAT!!!

WHAT IS THE FUTURE FOR WOODBRIDGE  LIBRARY?

The SCC Chief Executive, Andrea Hill  and Council Leader Jeremy Pembroke are pushing through a scheme supposedly to save money by – in effect – privatising Suffolk County Council. Without consulting the people of Suffolk they are planning on ‘outsourcing’ as many staff and departments as possible.
Top of the list are our libraries!!!

You think this is a bad idea? Sign the petition here or online:
http://www.gopetition.com/petition/39430.html

Putting the principle to one side, this hasn’t even been planned or costed – and the timescale is ludicrous. For example, although libraries are due to be “divested” next April, SCC have absolutely no idea of what they plan to do with them.

SCC claim they’re “consulting with communities” – well not in Woodbridge they’re not. Our library has not heard a word about its future. Will libraries remain part of a County network even? The council is strangely silent.

Consultation? They have not consulted us – not you, not me, not anyone. And the plan was certainly not in ANY manifesto. But though they haven’t asked you, you can still give them your opinion. Please, sign this petition and tell your friends!

PS Perhaps the worst thing about this is that the council has just spent a lot of money moving the library from its old, horrid sixties concrete site to the renovated victorian school building that was once New Street school. WHY should Suffolk residents pay good money for a building that is immediately hived off to some external income-generating organisation?