THE war of words over the proposed closure of New Mill Library hotted up this week.
Holme Valley South Conservative Clr Donald Firth reacted furiously to what he described as the “neglect of New Mill” by Kirklees Council – and in particular cabinet member Clr Christine Stanfield, who he says is responsible for the proposed closure of New Mill library.
Clr Christine Stanfield, has refused to attend a public meeting to discuss the reasons for the closure of the library, saying that ‘there is no point’.
And no officers with responsibility are available to attend either.
Clr Firth described the snub as a “disgrace” to a community which has not been consulted over the closure in any shape or form, and was of the view that New Mill may as well not exist as far as the council was concerned.
Clr Firth said: “I invited Clr Stanfield and the officers to a public meeting in New Mill before this decision goes back to cabinet, in order that they can explain to the public why they are so intent on closing this library down.
“At the scrutiny hearing they failed to answer questions posed to them, gave no satisfactory explanation regarding the financial savings, they used inaccurate figures and statistics and had a poor knowledge of the public transport problems we have raised.
“There has been no consultation over this closure and when I asked Clr Stanfield to attend a public meeting before she did not have the courtesy to reply.
“On this occasion she has replied. She said there was ‘no point’.
“I am appalled at her attitude and I consider it a disgrace that this community is losing a vital facility without being given the opportunity to question those responsible for the decision.
“Officers are ‘not available’ for the meeting I have arranged, but it will still go ahead so that the public can be told the facts about this closure and other issues affecting New Mill, such as bus services.
“This is an incredible snub from the council to a community which is unacceptable.
“When I was a cabinet member with a portfolio I went all over Kirklees to discuss and address problems whatever reception I got. That is what I was paid to do. Clr Stanfield’s lack of commitment to her portfolio, and apparent lack of knowledge of it, is a disgrace and if she is not up to the job she should consider resigning.”
Clr Stanfield, explaining her position, said: “Because of Donald Firth’s demeanour and attitude, I’ve come to the conclusion that he’s simply incapable of engaging in rational discussion – that’s why I’m not prepared to go.”
Clr Firth and his fellow Tory ward colleagues councillors Ken Sims and Nigel Patrick were disappointed by the recent ‘call in’ decision regarding the proposed closure of New Mill Library.
The decision has asked the council’s cabinet to look again at their original decision and consider deferring it until alternative public computer access can be provided in the village, but the Conservative councillors said that decision ignored almost all the evidence that had been put before the scrutiny panel and the future of the library was far from secure.
Clr Patrick said: “I was shocked that neither the cabinet member or the scrutiny panel seemed to realise the importance of frontline services in our rural areas.
“Clr Stanfield seems to hold more importance to building new libraries in urban areas, which are already well served, and is happy to close them in rural areas where the service to the community is vital.
This to me is nonsensical. We should be looking to expand the services in our rural communities not closing them down. The impact of this closure goes way beyond a couple of personal computers, but the panel failed to recognise that and it is hugely disappointing.
“Clearly the cabinet member attaches no importance to our rural communities.”
Clr Sims said: “It was apparent that Clr Stanfield didn’t understand the issues that were being questioned. She seemed out of her depth, struggled to find acceptable answers and relied very heavily on officers to help her justify the decision that has been made.
“The panel failed to see there had been no consultation, that the figures being relied upon were flawed, and that there were serious issues regarding public transport and the importance of the library and its role in the community.
“The result is disappointing and is perhaps only delaying the inevitable, but we will fight on through the public meeting and hopefully the cabinet member and her colleagues will see common sense and reverse their decision.”
A public meeting has been arranged at New Mill WMC at 8.15pm next Thursday (July 16) at which the library closure and other issues affecting services in the village will be discussed.