Park Library petition – Catch 22 Swindon style

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?

We have been told that because we handed in a copy to the consultation it is deemed to be ‘a consultation petition’. So it will have to go forward to the Cabinet meeting where a decision on the Libraries will be taken in December.

Whereas at a full council meeting a petitioner has the right to speak, apparently no such right exists at Cabinet meetings. The Council Leader has said that we can speak, but it is surely an anomaly that petitioners are not given the same right as at full council. This anomaly should certainly be corrected.

David Renard has told us that a discussion at the full council meeting will be premature because “the proposals for the future library service are still being worked on”. So even if we had not put in a copy of the petition to the consultation we would have been refused a discussion at the council meeting on the grounds that it would be “premature”. This appears to be Swindon’s version of Catch-22.

Given the fact that the Cabinet is a one party body which usually serves as a rubber stamp for whatever the relevant Lead Member proposes, there will not be much of a discussion. Genuine discussion there is as rare as hens’ teeth. In reality once final proposals are put forward to the Cabinet they are usually set in stone. If the proposal includes ending funding for Park Library what are the chances of some rogue Cabinet member proposing to include it in the core service?

This administration has given consultation a bad name as a result of their record. The refusal of a discussion at full council will be seen by local people as yet more confirmation that this administration treats them with the haughty contempt that more and more people have come to expect across a range of issues.

Martin Wicks

Secretary, Parks & East Walcot Community Forum

Media release: Parks & East Walcot Community Forum

November 5th 2016

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