21 April 2022
A Northampton library forced to shut indefinitely during the Covid pandemic could soon be looking forward to a bright new chapter as plans to secure a new operator continue to move forward.
St James’ Library may soon be able to reopen after the Council received a viable bid to move the library from its current location in St James Square, to new operators.
Sixfields Councillors Cllr Imran Chowdhury BEM, Cllr Brian Sargeant, and Cllr Nick Sturges-Alex have been working hard to evaluate bidders to run the services and working with council officers to progress to the best outcome for the residents of St James.
A business case has now been developed and proposals for funding the necessary IT infrastructure are due to go the Council’s Cabinet, with further information on the new operators set to be announced once a decision has been made.
Following this decision work to transfer the library expected to start shortly afterwards.
Cllr Chowdhury said: “We felt that the bid was very strong, we need to unite the community,” with Cllr Sargeant adding: “Libraries provide many services other than lending books, and that they are an essential element to a thriving community."
Cllr Sturges-Alex explained: “In recent history libraries have always helped the disadvantaged to access education and the concept is just as relevant today, and bringing this library into a building that is already run for the local community, by a group that is dedicated to this purpose, is a perfect fit."
Cllr Adam Brown, Deputy Leader of West Northamptonshire Council and cabinet member for Housing, Culture & Leisure said: “I am delighted that we now have an acceptable offer accompanied with a viable business case to reinstate a community library in St James. Local ward members and the community have stepped up to ensure that a valuable resource won’t be lost, and I commend everyone involved on their hard work.”
19 April 2022
More than 4,595 reception places at primary school have been allocated to pupils across West Northamptonshire today.
This year, 94.4 per cent of applicants secured a place at their first preference school, up slightly from 94.3 per cent in 2021 for the whole of Northamptonshire under Northants County Council.
While the number of families being offered a place at one of their preferred schools is 99.5 per cent, up from 98.9 per cent in 2021.
Cllr Fiona Baker, West Northamptonshire Council’s Cabinet Member for children, families, and education, said: “The first day at school is an exciting day for all families and an important milestone in everyone’s life. It’s been a difficult year for many which is why I’m particularly glad we are still able to show consistent improvements meaning more families get their first choice."
Parents/carers who applied for their primary school place online and within the deadline are able to check their school offer online.
Additionally, the number of pupils obtaining their first preference for junior school (Year 3) places was 95.2 per cent (99.5 per cent last year).
For those who were not successful in gaining a place at their preferred school, parents have the right to appeal through the independent admission appeals process.
The next round of primary school place allocations (for late applicants) will take place in May.
19 April 2022
West Northamptonshire Council is continuing to shape arrangements for providing every Ukrainian guest with a £200 payment, as recently announced by the Government.
Under the Government’s Homes for Ukraine initiative, the payment will be given to each guest to cover the cost of immediate essentials, such as food, clothing and toiletries, before universal credit is made available.
The Council is predominantly a ‘cashless organisation’ – meaning it cannot generally conduct physical cash transactions in a timely or low risk way, which also helps prevent vulnerable people from being targeted or taken advantage of. It has opted to initially distribute the payments using a voucher system that has already successfully been in place for several months to help Afghan nationals resettling in West Northants. The vouchers can be redeemed either in store or online at a wide range of outlets.
Following recent feedback, the Council is also looking at other options for making payments, including the possibility of a pre-paid card, and will update guests and host families in the coming days if this alternative can work with its existing systems.
Councillor David Smith, WNC’s Cabinet Member for community safety and engagement and regulatory services, said: “Our arrangements for supporting Ukrainian refugees are only a few weeks old and the situation is changing rapidly.
“We’ve put in place the voucher scheme which has worked really well for seven months as part of our Afghan Resettlement Scheme, recognised as having some of the best provision across the whole of the UK.
“We’ve recently received feedback that we need to look at alternatives, so we’re looking at this and hope to have news on this in the coming days. For example we are considering a pre-paid card which can be used like a debit card, but we have to look at what is workable in distributing the Government payments quickly and effectively."
20 April 2022
The organic display of community spirit which emerged during the Covid-lockdown and became known as the Towcester Rock Snake, has been given a new home.
Before lockdown ‘Love Rocks’ was a common pastime throughout the country which saw children decorate stones, sometimes with greetings, which they would then hide for someone else to find, photograph, share on Facebook and then re-hide.
During the Covid-lockdown that morphed into the Towcester Rock Snake, with messages dedicated to the NHS and support for the wider community, designs of favourite animals and superheroes, and messages to lost loved-ones.
Around 1,600 stones were decorated and placed along the spiral walkway around Bury Mount, the remains of a Norman motte and bailey castle in the centre of Towcester. So many the Snake reached the top and began to loop back on itself.
However, the stones were not fixed in place and began to be moved around so the decision was made to clear them and store them away until a permanent home could be found.
Potterspury mural artist Sarah Hodgkins was commissioned to design and install the snake and a selection of stones have now been cemented into place on the Towcester Watermeadows, a short distance from Bury Mount.
Towcester resident Karyna Clifford took charge of the stones after they were cleared and worked with West Northamptonshire Council’s Communities Team to find a location and funding.
Mrs Clifford said: “Joan Tear has to be credited for bringing ‘Love Rocks’ to Towcester and has been instrumental to the Rock Snake.
“During lockdown, when my little ones were missing their friends and family, we painted some rocks of encouragement and placed them at the Mount with an unpretentious handmade sign to see if anyone else would engage. And it helped us all to feel connected to the community.
“As each day passed, we walked through the snake of rocks climbing up Bury Mount on our hour of exercise and found more reassurance that we were all, as a community, hopeful and waiting for better days when the world would make sense again.”
WNC Chief Executive Anna Earnshaw visited with her dog Ralph after the installation and said: “There were no meetings, no press releases, one child thought it would be a good idea and the Rock Snake just grew from there.
“I’m very pleased the council was able to help find a home for this poignant display of togetherness that I know exists within all our communities in West Northamptonshire.”
19 April 2022
West Northamptonshire Council (WNC) will be marking Stephen Lawrence Day on Friday, 22 April to commemorate the life of the 18-year-old who was killed in an unprovoked racist attack almost 30 years ago.
The event will take place at the Guildhall, Northampton, from 12-1pm and will be attended by local organisations and community representatives.
The ceremony will begin with an introduction from WNC’S Assistant Cabinet Member for Communities, Councillor Anna King, followed by speeches from various speakers including Northamptonshire Police’s Superintendent Richard Tompkins.
The event will conclude with a poem played through a speaker for everyone to hear with a printed version available for people to take home with them for reflection, and the lighting of a candle.
A yellow rose will also be offered to everyone in attendance to acknowledge Stephen’s Jamaican heritage.
Councillor Anna King, WNC’s Assistant Cabinet Member for Communities, said: “The story of Stephen Lawrence is a deeply tragic one and I hope that people will join us in observing this day and reflecting upon Stephen’s legacy.
“I am pleased that West Northamptonshire Council has chosen to recognise this event and build a foundation to commemorate the life of Stephen, and continue to pave the way for a greater understanding of discrimination, equality and cultural change across West Northamptonshire.”
Northamptonshire Police’s Superintendent Richard Tompkins, said: “The loss of Stephen Lawrence and the subsequent findings of the MacPherson enquiry was a wake-up call to police forces across the country and indeed to the country as a whole.
“In supporting Stephen Lawrence Day, Northamptonshire Police continues to demonstrate its ongoing commitment to ensure fair and unbiased policing is at the core of everything we do.
“We welcome people from all cultures and faiths into our force, so that we can meet the aim of representing all of the communities we serve in our wonderfully diverse county.”
Social media users can help spread awareness about Stephen Lawrence Day by using the hashtags: #SLDay22 #BecauseOfStephen #ALegacyOfChange.