Free Speech A Problem For a Council

A Shocking Reason For Losing A Gig This Week: Giving a quote to a local paper two years ago, when asked, saying that councils shouldn’t charge libraries business rates. Yes, really.

Having been booked to host Hambleton District Council’s awards since last November, I was told with a week to go that they were going to “take a different approach” and have them hosted by a local radio dj instead (they did not have one booked) and would still pay me £250. (I pay my taxes to them-they’re effectively wasting my own money). The award hosting consisted of delivering a script. I was also to perform two poems.

I asked why, as I couldn’t see a reason for such a decision & was eventually told I could ring the council chief exec who had made the decision after seeing that I was hosting. It was suggested to me, off the record, that it was the Conservative council leader Mark Robson who I stood against in our ward as a Labour candidate six years ago who actually demurred. The chief exec (six days later) has finally told me that because I was once “highly critical” in public of the council’s policy on charging community libraries business rates, it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to host the community awards.

This despite the fact that the comment consisted of one sentence a few years ago solicited by the York Press when it asked several writers about the policy. (I said it was a “slap in the face” to struggling libraries). http://www.yorkpress.co.uk/…/14957435.Top_authors__anger_…/…).

This despite the fact that since then I have worked in partnership with HDC on several projects to promote poetry and poetry audiences, hosted their sport awards and done work on a voluntary (& sometimes council supported) basis for Thirsk Clock, Thirsk Community Care. Thirsk yarnbombers and been involved in running literary events in Thirsk in partnership with the White Rose Book shop for several years at minimal rates, in order to promote a stronger audience for literature in the community.

As a professional poet who works for all sorts of organisations with divergent values to myself (not that my own local council has divergent values given that theirs are apparently to be open, fair and respectful. I reject the reason belatedly given, (though if it really is that, then god help anyone who ever criticises a council policy. Or is a Labour Party member doing work for a Conservative-run Council).

I will continue to be a proud member of my community & will be donating my (wastefully duplicated) fee to Thirsk Clock and Thirsk Community Care.

Chief Exec Justin Ives is on Justin.ives@hambleton.gov.uk If this concerns anybody else.

I am livid, hurt and concerned about the implications of this for people who do work for councils.

 

Justin Ive’s email:

Dear Kate

First let me apologise for my lack of availability as I am on annual leave for two weeks from Wednesday.

I can assure you the my decision to appoint another person to host the event was in no way connected to your gender, political alliances or abilities. It was brought to my attention that in the past you had been highly critical publicly on the Council’s policy concerning community libraries. Although it is of course your right to comment on any of the Council’s policies, given that this was the Council’s Community Awards ceremony I felt that it would be more appropriate for another person to host the awards. However, I realise that you will have spent time preparing for the event and therefor I paid your fee in full.

I trust this fully explains the reason for my decision.

Regards

Justin

Sent from my iPad

 

EDIT: Have now found the context in which I gave this quote, and exactly what I said. Highly critical? Really??

 

Hi Kate,

I hope you’re well. I’m writing an article about the reaction of writers to the soon-to-be volunteer-run libraries in Hambleton district being told they must pay thousands in business rates. The six other district councils in North Yorkshire have exempted the volunteer-run libraries from paying the charges. I thought you and Alfie may be interested in this, particularly as one of the affected libraries is Thirsk.

For further details:
http://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/…/14930020.Council_under_…/

I’d be interested in hearing your views.

Regards,
Stuart
Stuart Minting | Reporter

Hi Stuart,

Thanks for sending this.

Happy to be quoted as saying that the decision to charge rates is a slap in the face for those volunteers trying so hard to keep these vital libraries going in the face of cuts. Libraries are one of the few places where everyone in a community can go for information and inspiration. They’re accessible, necessary and have benefits far beyond just being a place to go and borrow books. They’re somewhere young people learn to be part of a wider community of readers and somewhere older people can go to stay connected to the community. I appreciate that councils are struggling to balance the books but these volunteer run libraries need all the help the council can give them. If other councils exempt libraries then so should Hambleton.

Could say more.
Having to rush this a.m.

Have passed on to Alfie-he writes regularly in Thirsk library.

All v best

Kate

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One thought on “Free Speech A Problem For a Council

  1. Justin Ives: not only pathetic but also cowardly. I have often noticed that people in perceived positions of power, who have just treated one shoddily, are immediately on leave until the shit stops flying. I am sure that, despite venting about this, you are consumed with frustration – and rightly so. Councils, eh. I have never worked with or for one that wasn’t stuffed with incompetent megalomaniacs. No matter how many times we clear ’em out, they crawl straight back in.

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