Green Party vows to continue fight against ‘austerity agenda’ in Lichfield and Burntwood

The fight to protect Lichfield and Burntwood from an “austerity agenda” will continue, the local branch of the Green Party has vowed.

The comments come after it led a campaign for a consultation over the future of Lichfield Library.

A petition of more than 5,500 names sparked a fresh debate at Staffordshire County Council over the plans to move the facility to St Mary’s in the Market Square and change the existing site at The Friary into residential accommodation.

Councillors said the petition would be considered alongside other views before  final decision is made.

But Robert Pass, chairman of the Lichfield and Burntwood branch of the Green Party and organiser of the petition, said the fight was about more issues than just the local library.

Campaigners collecting signatures

Robert Pass (second from right) collecting signatures with other campaigners in Lichfield

“The experience at the county council did not inspire me with any confidence in the state our local democracy,” he said. “But I’m delighted at the positive response from the people of Lichfield during this campaign.

“So many people we spoke to are angry about the cuts to public services and sale of valuable public assets to make a quick buck.

“The Lichfield and Burntwood Green Party will continue to fight this damaging austerity agenda, which is becoming more obvious in Lichfield with the closure of Lichfield Foyer, which supported some of our most vulnerable young adults, and now the sell-off of the Friary.”

Members of the Save Lichfield Library campaign have branded the debate on the library as a “travesty of democracy”.

Mr Pass said the core issue of the call for a public consultation was largely ignored.

“I’m obviously very disappointed,” he said. “I think the way the debate was handled was an insult to the 5,562 people from the area who signed the petition.

“The council had an obligation to debate the content of the petition – which was whether or not the people of Lichfield should be consulted on the future of their library. But instead nearly all of the councillors who spoke completely ignored the content of the petition and just talked up the move to St Mary’s and what a wonderful idea it was.

The Friary building which currently houses Lichfield Library. Pic: Elliott Brown

The Friary building which currently houses Lichfield Library. Pic: Elliott Brown

“The other recurring point many councillors made was that we misled the people of Lichfield because we called the campaign Save Lichfield Library, the inference being that people were duped into signing and the petition therefore lacked legitimacy.

“That’s a gross insult to the intelligence of the 5,000-plus people who signed the petition and was a petty political ploy to sidestep the content of the petition.”

But Cllr Ben Adams, the Staffordshire County Council cabinet member who led the debate, rejected the criticism – and said members of the public could make up their own mind about the way the campaign opposing the plans had been handled.

“A recording of the debate is available online and people will be able to see for themselves that senior members from both parties expressed concern about the way the petition was conducted,” he said.

“The merits of the proposed move from the Friary to St Mary’s was given a thorough airing and the question of consultation was also addressed and it was agreed that the petition be received, alongside other information and be included in the papers upon which a final decision will be based.”

A recording of the debate can be viewed online starting at 2hrs 4mins.

 

Founder of LichfieldLive and editor of the site.

16 Comments

  1. Rebecca Sadler

    25th May, 2016 at 1:59 pm

    Good on the Greens, Robert Pass is absolutely right, they are just trying make a quick buck because their budgets have been cut and cut by central government.

    Another public asset in private hands!

  2. Steven Norman

    25th May, 2016 at 3:14 pm

    Am I right in thinking that only two people out of the 5000 turned up for the debate in Stafford – and they were from the Green Party? Heaven help us if they ran the Government They would take us backward. From their manifesto for example:

    PA361 extract. “We would therefore reintroduce the committee system across local government at all levels, which provides for direct member involvement in decision making.”
    No independent scrutiny (with no party whip as we now have it_ just parties deciding what will happen even before the meeting has even taken place. The bad old days – I don’t want back.

  3. Mat

    25th May, 2016 at 4:57 pm

    Steve Norman- I’m a passionate member of the Greens but I’m also hard working so I couldn’t get there. In these days people have to work to keep their heads above the water, they feel voiceless and hence there is a disconnection with the electorate which gets filled by a whole host of undesirables. Like it or not, your ridicule is actually out of touch. Green policies are flourishing everywhere when only 5 years ago they were being rubbished. Fine we’ve got our difficulties and we aren’t afraid of them- where has the mainstream got us? Homeless on the rise, rents out of control, housing is nationally massively short and getting worse, local services under threat, NHS haemorrhaging doctors and nurse, schools facing a recruitment crisis. Don’t tell me we don’t need a change and any party that can manage to get 6400 people to engage should at least be listened to because conserving the status quo just isn’t an option.

  4. Ken

    25th May, 2016 at 7:50 pm

    Mr Norman – please accept my apologies. When I signed the petition I overlooked the bit which said that in order for it to receive a fair hearing it was necessary for me to attend the council meeting as well. Had I known this is I would gladly have given up a morning’s work to watch proceedings in person rather than view them later online via the webcast.

    Would the Conservatives have shown a more caring side if the public gallery had been full? Would the Labour benches have bristled with righteous fury at a ruling majority hell-bent on ignoring the views of those they are elected to represent if they’d had a bigger audience? Of course not.

    People like myself signed the petition in the hope that the council might at least take their views into account on this matter. In the end we, and the whole of Staffordshire, were poorly served by both sides of the chamber.

  5. Sue woodward

    25th May, 2016 at 11:16 pm

    I would have given far more credence to the Greens’ anti-austerity message if they’d campaigned against the closure – yes, closure , not move – of Lichfield Foyer, a supported housing scheme for homeless young people, hit by the double-whammy of Supporting People grant cuts by Conservative-controlled Staffordshire County Council and the withdrawal of Housing Benefit by the Conservative Government for under-25s. The young people forced to move out included students in the middle of college courses and also care-leavers. Instead, the Greens campaign to “Save Lichfield Library” which was about a move to a different site rather than a loss of library services. Wasn’t this more about publicity than a concern for those hardest hit by austerity?

  6. Interesting

    26th May, 2016 at 7:32 am

    @Steve_Norman. I signed the petition. Sadly I had to go to work. You should see how high my council tax is, I am really struggling to pay it.

    If you are saying, if we all turn up, you will reverse your decision. I am happy to give up a days pay.

  7. Thornton

    26th May, 2016 at 9:09 am

    “Homeless on the rise, rents out of control, housing is nationally massively short and getting worse, local services under threat, NHS haemorrhaging doctors and nurse, schools facing a recruitment crisis”.

    @Mat, that’s some serious scare mongering. It sounds as though you’re living out the apocolypse. This government are aware of these issues and everyday work to resolve them. The issues are more complex than simply assigning cash to them. Instead of wasting your time with the Green Party why not join the Party who are actually doing something about it? Not a dig but a genuine suggestion as it sounds as though you want to make a difference.

  8. AgitatorofPeople

    26th May, 2016 at 1:20 pm

    Sue Woodward, Staffordshire County Council Labour Shadow Leader and Councillor for Division: Lichfield – Burntwood North, supposedly the “effective” opposition with a seat on the council where she can actually see the day to day running of this local government took no co-ordinated action that saved the Lichfield Foyer, it is now an eyesore on Rotten Row, where were the Labour supporters disgusted by this closure rallying local opinion?? Labour could have used the publicity on that issue to really good effect, saved the Foyer and made good local political gain, but Labour did not.

    You and other labour councillors with apparently far larger Labour supporter numbers have let that and many other of our local services just slide away.

    A handful of Green Party members have caused a major disturbance in the “local politics as usual” scene over just one issue, and so many party councillors and even the local MP has had a crack at them. Imagine what a few more Greens could do, with seats on the local councils, I can see how that is a scary prospect to the politics as usual crowd, somebody with democratic values that listen to their electorate standing as an oversight on local issues.

    To me the Green Party are clearly doing something right, I applaud their efforts, this is a democracy where an individual or a locally non elected political party can question locally elected representatives and bring them to account for their actions.

    Long may that right continue.

  9. mat

    26th May, 2016 at 5:23 pm

    Sue Woodward, that’s a cheap shot I’m afraid, saying its more about publicity. I agree the closure of the Lichfield Foyet is a huge concern to us. But I’ll say again, the selling of the Friary Building and the consequent downsizing of the library, is too. Over 6000 people signed it the petition. We thought people would be unhappy, and they were. All this crying about our slogan is just sophistry. We all made it very clear and if slogans are so bad let me explain. 1) We said to people signing what we had read was happening- a move to St Mary’s 2) In some respects we are ” Saving the Library”, depending on what you understand the library to be. Many people saw it as the building which was their school in the past and they were horrified at it being sold off to the private sector. Rob Pass has presided over a very good exercise in local democracy and he should be congratulated for it. If those who represent us are upset by that then the last thing you will get from me is an apology.
    Thornton- in my profession I do make a difference and if you think anything in what I’ve said is “scaremongering” then god knows what planet you are living on!

  10. Sue woodward

    26th May, 2016 at 7:14 pm

    Mat – not upset at all, just realistic.

  11. Interesting

    27th May, 2016 at 9:41 am

    “There are hundreds of constituencies across the UK where you could put up a sheep in red or blue and it would get in. This is a first step to ending such a state of affairs, “ Digby Jones said.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/lord-digby-jones-millionaire-recluse-to-fund-disaffected-mps-in-the-next-general-election-a6915911.html

    Good job, we don’t live in an area like that.

  12. Laurence Skermer

    27th May, 2016 at 10:31 am

    Interesting – whilst the issue of safe seats is a real problem in our democracy, it is not relevant to the current discussion. You cannot claim that the 28,000 odd people who voted for Fabricant in the last election are all deluded sheep, whilst the 5,500 who signed the petition are all sound independent individuals merely because you happen to agree with them.

  13. Rob

    27th May, 2016 at 5:23 pm

    The “austerity agenda” was the chosen outcome at the last General Election (I’m aware how inconvenient that may be for some) and many of us look forward to its continued implementation.

  14. Interesting

    27th May, 2016 at 9:23 pm

    Actually 63.1% of the people who voted, rejected the austerity agenda.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election/2015/results

  15. Rob

    27th May, 2016 at 10:52 pm

    I didn’t claim that it was chosen by the majority, our governments rarely are. I simply stated, correctly, that it was the chosen outcome.
    So not interesting at all.

  16. Sj

    28th May, 2016 at 12:43 pm

    The only party to be congratulated on their efforts within Lichfiled are the Green Party and I can only hope they continue to champion the issues that mean the most to Lichfield people and preserve its historical integrity

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