The Chinese New Year celebrations in Beeston have become part of the town. Beeston Carnival, Oxjam, Christmas Lights Switch-on. They’ve all become very popular events for us to celebrate the town, get together as a community, and boost local businesses: Oxjam alone often gives venues their busiest night of the year outside the festive period. These are not just events, they are the fabric of the town.
The Chinese New Year was of particular interest. Due to the proximity of the University, and the siting of Broadgate Park residencies within Beeston, we have a sizeable population of Chinese and Korean students. This has enriched the town in many ways: the restaurants are staggeringly good (Nosh being my particular favourite). The food shops sell stuff that can be both bewildering and delicious: my random purchases have about a 75% success rate. They bring money, diversity and skills into the town, and some stay on after their studies and enrich the town. We’re very lucky to have them.
The New Year’s Celebration was a brilliant idea to celebrate this, and bring us together. Similar events are ran in the City centre, as well as Lakeside Arts on the campus. It was wildly popular, and in the dark days of January / February a great fillip to the town.
Unfortunately, it is no more. This, from the interim MD of Liberty Leisure, Chris Laxton-Kane:
“It is with a heavy heart that we have been forced to cancel this event and we sincerely apologise for any disappointment it will cause.
“I would like to reassure the local community that we are actively planning our 2017 programme of events which will be available soon, including the ever-popular Hemlock Happening on June 10 and other events across the summer”.
Awful news. How did this happen?
First, let’s look at Liberty Leisure. This is a ‘Teckal’company; an arms-reach business that is becoming more and more popular in local government as austerity rumbles on. These are often, Liberty being an example, fully owned by the local authority. Their use is a sort of mid-way point to privatisation: they are subject to the market more readily than a council service, and if they fail, then there are consequences. It is therefore key that they work on a profit basis, rather than service provision. It’s not outsourcing as such, but somewhere between.
Since October 2016 they’ve been solely responsible for the leisure centres, events and cultural offer for Broxtowe.
Trying to get much out of Liberty is not easy. A debrief on an unsuccessful Christmas event in Stapleford saw the officers responsible for the debacle fail to show up: according to Stapleford Community Group leader, and Independent borough councillor Richard Macrae a pre-written statement was read by the interim MD, who, not attending the event, was unable to comment.
I rang them after receiving a tip-off that a whole bunch of printing had been done for the event. I asked if this was true “We’ll get back to you”
Is it true that these leaflets were bundled into a car and driven from the council to avoid embarrassment? No answer.
Why could staff not be bought in on a temp / agency basis to work the event? “I can’t answer that. As it may involve details of staff here it would contravene Data Protection laws”.
Are you subject to Freedom of Information Requests? “I can’t answer that, I’ll have to get someone to get back to you”.
I haven’t been called back yet, but will amend this article should I receive a response. While I wait, I thought i’d submit an FOI anyway, asking:
1) The reasons given for the cancellation of the 2017 Chinese New Year celebrations was ‘staffing issues’. Why was there no contingency here, and why is the use of temp / agency staff no considered?
2) What was the expenditure on the event (leaflets printed, etc) before cancellation?
3) What measures, if any, have/will been put in place to ensure the event returns in 2018?
I’ll let you know the reply.
It does increasingly feel that ruling Tories Broxtowe Borough Council are increasingly keen to run down the area they’re meant to represent. After securing the worst local government settlement in the UK, leader Richard Jackson voted to, errrr, abolish the same council he leads and place all services under the County Council (it is worth noting that he earns a great deal more money on the County Council than he does at Broxtowe).
Services deteriorate, democracy is depleted (it is impossible for an opposition councillor to ask a follow-up question in a debate: questions have to be presubmitted. Councillors and council officers have voiced their concerns about this process frequently).
We are fast losing accountability at Broxtowe Borough Council. The elected memberson the ruling party do not want you to ask why Beeston lost its toilets; why the Christmas Light switch on was a damp squib, why the DH Lawrence centre was closed down and turned into a beauty salon, why their has been an utter mess made of the Phase 2 Beeston Square development… the list goes on. The loss of a treasured event, and the obfuscation when trying to find out how this happened are sympomatic of this.
I’ll update when – if – I get any answers. Don’t be holding your breath.
NETWORK RAIL UPDATE:
The consultancy continues, with Network Rail still open to receive emails and letters and calls regarding the proposed closure of the path. The Communications Office of network Rail have been in touch here, with this comment:
Network Rail is holding a public event at Attenborough Village Hall on Wednesday February 8 from 3pm-7.30pm to discuss the proposals for the crossings. We hope as many of you as possible will be able to attend.
Tony Belshaw, Network Rail Communications Manager
I’ve also received many emails and messages from organisations/ people who have contacted organisations who are not happy with the decision, and it seems the objection against closure is multitudinous. If you’ve sent me an email or message and I’ve yet to reply, apologies: please nudge me and I will get round to it.
I also had an email conversation with Julie Gibbons, who ran a successful campaign at Bardon Mill, a rural station in Northumbria. While the two situations are quite different (the crossings are not easily comparable, in terms of train speed / usage etc) some information is highly useful:
Any NR consultation seems inadequate and if they can get away with things under their permitted development rights, they do, leaving the public to kick up as much fuss as possible in a short time to make them begin to listen.The rationale behind closing crossings is a government remit for there to be 0 deaths at crossings by 2020. NR is responding to this with bridges or closure. When we asked about lights and gates they said that it does not work citing the Elsenham casePersonally I think it is time for the general public to take personal responsibility for their actions when crossing a railway track and accidents do happen.Another point of difference with your case to that of Elsenham and ours at Bardon Mill (not that we have had any accidents) is that yours is just a crossing and is not associated with a station where people crossing maybe rushing for a train (as happened at Elsenham).…..basically if we can help in any way, do ask. My main advice is to not give up, get some knowledgeable supporters, find out from any local signalmen or retired railway folk about possible alternative solutions and certainly don’t settle for closure.