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The Value of Our Community Libraries and Keeping Them Open

Thank you Mr Mayor.

As all of you sitting in this chamber are fully aware of the impending closure of many of our local Libraries and the need to protect and keep them open to serve our local wards and communities for future use.

My local Library is ‘Abington Library’ it has been serving my community for 79 years and still continues to be a cornerstone and shinning beacon for many local families.

Even though opening days have now been reduced to 3 days a week because of county council cutbacks –the loyal dedicated hardworking staff and volunteers provide the following activities –

  • Advice for young families
  • Homework Club
  • Tutoring of children who are excluded from school
  • Free wi-fi to study
  • printing facilities for all to use.
  • Social services family contact and counselling meetings use the library because it is a place of safety
  • Nursing homes visit with their residents                                                                                                                     These are just some of the many service our library provide.

The future of all 21 libraries is still uncertain ‘The Friends of Abington Library ‘have now finalised the use of a near by Community centre for 2 mornings a week for a trail period to set up an independent book-swap Library service which will act as an extension to the current library service on the days that it is currently closed 

If Abington Library and other local libraries disappear what then happens next? Remaining accessible libraries become a bus journey away (that’s if the bus services haven’t been reduced in the area!) they may be a 20 minute car journey away, would residents get parked close enough to where they need to be, would they have to pay to park?

Don’t forget many of the services that our now closed ‘Sure Start’ and ‘Children’s Centres’ provided -went into local libraries –what happens if and when local libraries close –where do these services go to then ?, will they just disappear as another cutback to local services?

As a former longstanding school governor of Headlands Primary school I saw the amazing impact our ‘Sure Start ‘centre had locally –parents of all ages would come to the centre to use all its facilities and sometimes getting that advice that would bring reassurance that new parents always need in those early years.

Indeed we even had a birth in the centre which brought great joy to the school and all our parents.

I asked ‘Sue’ one of the volunteers at Abington Library and on the friend’s committee to highlight how it supports the local community                                                                                                                                                                                              ‘Libraries are for the young, the old and the in between, the disabled and the vulnerable –for everyone’

‘A comfortable and safe place to meet friends, find companionship and support - plus help in dealing with the outside world’

‘I have a friend who visits the library regularly who has a guide dog, she has given a talk and demo to children about being sight impaired’

‘We encourage people where English is not their first language to join us for tea and coffee and have been told it is beneficial to hear English spoken in a social context, also practicing conversation without feeling embarrassed’

In closing I would like to invite all councillors here to the ‘Friends of Abington Library’ garden fete on Saturday 14th July between 10am and 12, I look forward to seeing some of you there supporting the community library.

Save our Libraries-Speech to Full council

The Value of Our Community Libraries and Keeping Them Open Thank you Mr Mayor. As all of you sitting in this chamber are fully aware of the impending closure of...

Crime and the Fear of Crime

There is an often used response to any questions about the rise of criminal activity that' the fear of crime is much greater than the actual reality of crime itself.'

Whether this is the case or not the fear of crime is keeping our residents in their homes at night, preventing parents taking their children to parks and recreation spaces, and stopping the residents of our town enjoying all the amenities our town has to offer.

This reluctance to enjoy all our town has to offer ranges from residents not going out at night and on dark winter evenings, parents avoiding parks and open spaces due to alcohol and drug use in full view, perpetrators ignoring the PSPO due to lack of information and enforcement, offensive graffiti, ASB in the town centre and shopping areas to real fear of violence and crime.

When asked for the crime figures to be included in the Community Safety and Community Engagement report to Full Council, Councillor King said, " find them yourself."

I did just that and the findings are alarming.

This is just one month's figures for Northampton.

Overall crime figures have dropped from May 2106.This may well be due to the change of reporting.

But, Violent Sexual offences have risen from 2016 -606, 2017- 704, 2018 -730 .

And alarmingly Drug Crimes  - 2016 - 58, 2017 - 43, 2018 - 65

Possession of weapons - 2016 - 14, 2017 - 23, 2018 - 30

From these figures the worrying escalation of crime in the town is around violent sexual offences, drugs and possession of weapons.

The three non domestic murders recently are also a break in pattern which should raise alarm bells. Two of these were around drugs and gang related incidents and involved stabbings.

We have evidence of an alarming increase in gang and knife crime nationwide and now in our town. The reasons for this are many and complex. Cuts in funding and reduced police presence are the visible and easily indentified reasons.

According to a recent report  'POVERTY, unemployment and family breakdown are pushing a significant group of young people beyond the fringes of society and into a world of 'inertia, cynicism and crime'.

Gangs are being run like a business and rivalry between gangs often leads to innocent bystanders being victims of violence. The levels of violence are increasing. Indicators of this is the recovery of firearms. In a 6 month period in Northamptonshire 25 guns were recovered. Mostly shotguns but also hand guns, which are far more rare. 

The movement of London gangs along County Lines  with drug dealing controlled from main cities, Birmingham, Leeds, Cardiff is moving into our town with local police working with the Met. and sharing information across borders.

The associated criminal activity around cuckooing, sexual exploitation, human trafficking,  modern slavery and the exploitation of vulnerable people of all ages with drugs, alcohol and mental health issues is growing in our town. Last month there were 40 cases of cuckooing in Northampton alone.

The night time economy has received much attention over the past few years. This is an issue due to the levels of alcohol and drug misuse and other negative behaviour. The tragic case of India Chipchase in January 2016 prompted the 'Nights out in Northampton' campaign and the recent Purple Flag award, for which the CSP team should be congratulated. But the ASB and violence around the night time economy had been with us for over 30 years. It should not take this tragic murder to prompt a reaction  from our CST.

I am concerned that in a similar way the response to the present and real threats to the safety of our communities will be too little and too late.

The Northampton Community Safety Plan aims to-

 'Deliver a safe, confident Northampton by working together to improve the quality of life for local people'.

It is a sound policy addressing all the priorities of such a plan. It sets out all the things we would hope to achieve for our town with the one exception of a real policy on Organised Crime. It highlights the problem but beyond saying that 'partners are working together'  - that's it.

Looking deeper in to the Customer and Communities Service PlanThe Corporate Plan Priority on Community Safety and Engagement section the outcomes have failed to deliver due to partners failing to deliver, lack of engagement from community and partners, the network fails to engage with the team and council, limited Police resource to support the ASB unit.

These are all failures to deliver around priorities for Community Safety. The objectives are laudable but objectives need to be delivered.

This is hugely worrying. If we are failing to achieve these objectives the people of our town are being let down and we are open to exploitation by criminal gangs who see a weakness which they will exploit.

I would urge the Community Safety Partnership to work with the PCC to bid for funding  from the Home Office's £11 million Early Intervention Youth Fund for youth and community groups who support early intervention and prevention activity in children and young people. We need to build strong and resilient communities.

The Association of Town and City Management who awarded the Purple Flag have a Violence and Vulnerability Unit which is looking at the changing patterns of crime. We must learn from work done in other parts of the country to reassure our residents that this is an issue which is being taken seriously.

We need to encourage partners to take action to reduce the opportunities for crime to take place, including raising awareness of the key issues and how best to respond and build positive relationships. This will include young people affected by violence.

Everybody wants to live in a place where they feel safe. Crime and the fear of crime are still big concerns for a lot for people and it is not something we should take lightly.

Crime and the Fear of Crime

Crime and the Fear of Crime There is an often used response to any questions about the rise of criminal activity that' the fear of crime is much greater than...

The Labour Group presented opposition business to the county on June 21 calling for more and better policing and a refresh of our community safety partnerships and strategy. The motion was voted down by the Tories. This is my speech.


I have a vision for the town of Northampton and the county of Northamptonshire.  That these are places that feel loved, that feel welcoming, and above all, that feel safe.  Above all-that feels safe places to bring up our children. That feels safe to women going home late at night from shift work. That feels safe for young men, out on the town with their mates.

But what has happened?

We have a vastly depleted police force and growing crime. I was in Spring Boroughs the other day and did a walkabout with my local cop. He turned me round to look back at where we had come from and said that he knew of three drugs dens within my line of vision that he could do nothing about because of a lack of resources. In Northampton, we have had three non-domestic murders of young men since February. This is intolerable. In St George’s County division we know there has been an increase in sex related crimes, in modern slavery, vehicle theft, anti-social behaviour and drug related crimes.  Yet when residents phone through to 101 they are kept waiting for so long to talk to anyone they give up. As a consequence many crimes are going unreported. We know that the police prioritise their resources depending on reported crime. If communities feel so disillusioned they stop reporting it means that already vulnerable communities are becoming ever more vulnerable.

We know cybercrime is on the rise and office based police deal with that. But we still need visible policing. We need more police on the street. We need more integrated partnership working and we need communities that trust the police,  that report suspicious activity, that report crimes.

Our approach to Community Safety partnerships needs a refresh. We are living in difficult times. Crime is changing and in some instances getting more violent. Recent Asian gold thefts have been marked by the violence of the gangs involved. These are brazen gangs who enter homes in daylight, where there are women and children, who threaten and commit  violence. As individuals become more vulnerable, as communities become more vulnerable, criminal gangs move in. And so we are seeing cuckooing and County Lines. I have been told that last month there were 40 cases of cuckooing across Northampton alone. From the experience of cities like Sheffield we know that where children are vulnerable because they have  been excluded from school they are becoming prey to gangs who use them as drug runners.

We have then a scenario where because of service cuts communities are losing their resilience. Where wages are being frozen and where jobs are casualised families are finding it hard to make ends meet. Where children are disaffected because they cannot cope with pressure from school and social pressures they are becoming prey to organised criminals.

There use to be 57 Police officers in the town centre. There are now 50.5 for the whole town.

The question we need to ask is, as a County, what is our responsibility in this situation? We need an outcome based approach. Is the Community Safety Partnership effective? How do we know? What else can it be doing? Where is best practice in this Country and what can we learn from it?

I beg to move.

Community Safety Partnerships- are they working?

The Labour Group presented opposition business to the county on June 21 calling for more and better policing and a refresh of our community safety partnerships and strategy. The motion...

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