Friday brief: Council commitment to keep libraries open
A round up of local news, Westminster watch and some things to do at the weekend
This week we have news on a variety of topics from across the county but before that we just wanted to give you some information on the local news landscape for our county.
As most readers will be aware, we set up NN Journal last year to provide more coverage of public interest news and cover events and issues that are having an impact in our county.
In line with this we recently took part in a research project by the Charitable Journalism Institute which was published yesterday. (Read it in full here)
News Deserts in the UK includes a focus on Northamptonshire and the media landscape which has been much diminished in local years, with the JPI newspapers Northants Telegraph and Northampton’s Chronicle & Echo reducing their output from daily to weekly newspapers as well as the loss of The Herald and Post.
There was also the recent announcement that the BBC Look East programme (which covers the West of the Eastern region) will now feature a much wider area, going as far as Norfolk, therefore allowing less time for a focus on Northamptonshire based stories.
We endorse the conclusions of the CJI report which found that ‘we are currently living through a sudden and catastrophic collapse in public interest information systems. This collapse is partly hidden because it is less in evidence at national level, where titles remain in place and journalists are still working in their traditional roles. At local level the loss of journalistic staff has led to a dearth of scrutiny of local institutions and of national policies and issues which have local consequences.’
Our current model is that we are funded only by our subscribers. We try to provide as much of our news as we can for free as we believe independent, properly researched and professionally produced news should be available to all residents, but we do need readers who can afford the £5 monthly fee to consider signing up. If you can help secure our future please become a paying subscriber below.
Council leadership commits to keeping libraries open
The leaders of North Northamptonshire Council yesterday put on the record that none of the libraries in the North of the county which are still to be handed over to community groups will close.
The former local authority run libraries at Raunds, Irchester and Rothwell are still to be handed over to community groups and after concern was expressed about their futures by Cllr Dorothy Maxwell both council leader Jason Smithers and Cllr Helen Howell pledged the libraries would remain open for residents.
Back in 2018 the former county council decided as part of a cost saving exercise to hand over 36 of its libraries to community groups and only keep 14 under statutory protection.
For four years some libraries have been in limbo, trying to sort out new funding arrangements, volunteers and building contracts.
At the meeting held at Corby Cube Cllr Howell said repair work was being carried out at Irchester library, a final contract had been drawn up to hand over Rothwell library to a community group and bids from two academy trusts were being considered to take over the running of Raunds library.
The Levelling Up bids being put forward to the government for consideration were criticised as being without ‘vision’ at a meeting of the North Northamptonshire Council cabinet meeting yesterday.
Labour Cllr Lyn Buckingham criticised the Conservative executive’s choice of projects which include a new £12m cycle route linking Corby town centre to the train station and more funding for Chester House near Irchester.
She told the executive: “I find it quite difficult to understand where your vision is? Where your innovation is? I’m sorry if that seems like a dig at you but you need to understand. This is a lot of money and it could be used in a better way.”
The bids had been decided on by a small panel of the executive and had not been put before any council committee for discussion or scrutiny before they were agreed by the executive yesterday.
It now appears the same could happen with the allocation of the Shared Prosperity Fund which along with the Levelling Up Fund and the Community Renewal Fund are key funding streams of the government’s levelling up agenda.
At yesterday’s executive meeting it was agreed to delegate authority to three councillors as to what the £4.8m received by NNC in Shared Prosperity funding would be spent on.
The authority has been asking for ideas through an online survey and residents have until June 22 to put in their suggestions.
The agenda did not include any details of which projects may benefit from the money.
Read our stories from earlier in the week here:
Taxi fare decision deferred
A decision to raise the cost of taxi fares across the North of the county was deferred yesterday. There has been a large protest in Corby about the plans, which could see fares increase considerably, which is being met with concern by taxi drivers, unions and customers.
Leader Jason Smithers said the decision had been deferred so the executive could receive more information. It follows a meeting with between taxi drivers and senior councillors earlier this week in which the drivers said the new proposed policy was unworkable.
NN Journal understands the legality of the proposal may be under question. We will try to find out more.
Pilot project helps vulnerable families in Queensway
A pilot project designed to help vulnerable families in the 'left-behind' area of Queensway in Wellingborough came to an end this week. The scheme funded by Greatwell Homes and run by local youth mentor Quinton Green saw a number of local groups and organisations come together to support families.
Each week families could take part in arts and crafts, exercise activities, play games and have a group meal together. When NN Journal attended one of the sessions a parent said the project gave their family a 'reset' each week.
"If we've had a bad few days we come here on a Monday night and get a reset. I wasn't sure about the idea when I was first referred, but we love coming here. It's been great for us."
The re-trial into the murder of Wellingborough teenager Dylan Holliday who was killed last summer is taking place this week. Read the BBC report here
Lawyers have hit out at comments made by the prime minister over the government's failed attempt to send asylum seekers to Rwanda. Speaking about a legal challenge from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) which prevented anybody being removed on a scheduled flight this week, Johnson was reported to have said:
"They are, I’m afraid, undermining everything that we’re trying to do to support safe and legal routes for people to come to the UK and to oppose the illegal and dangerous routes...criminal gangs are doing and what … those who effectively are abetting the work of the criminal gangs are doing, is undermining people’s confidence in the safe and legal system, undermining people’s general acceptance of immigration”.
Corby MP Tom Pursglove, who is also the minister for immigration compliance said the government would do whatever necessary to follow through with the policy.
In a letter to Johnson and Pursglove the dean of the Faculty of Advocates said:
"To suggest that lawyers who act in immigration judicial reviews are abetting the work of criminal gangs is wrong in law. It is fatuous. It is vacuous. And most worryingly, it is dangerous."
The Bar Council and the Law Society have also warned about the rhetoric being used by the government over the issue saying:
"It is misleading and dangerous for the Prime Minister to suggest lawyers who bring such legal challenges are doing anything other than their job and upholding the law. Anyone at risk of a life-changing order has a right to challenge its legality with the assistance of a lawyer, who has a duty to advise their client on their rights."
Independent business of the week
V and B is a shop and bar selling a range of wines, beers and spirits in the centre of Northampton. With regular live music and DJs it’s a great place to meet up with friends for a night out or stock up on your favourite beverage.
🎦There's a film festival at Delapre Abbey this weekend with five films to choose from today or tomorrow. More details here https://delapreabbey.org/events
🥗The popular Oundle food market is on tomorrow from 9am
🎵 If reggae music is your thing, head to the Spread Eagle in Northampton on Sunday from 3pm for live music and food.