What kind of Community do we want?

When I first moved to the village in 1988, a letter appeared in the Chronicle. A lady requested people stop phoning the police when her husband went for a walk. Yes, you’ve guessed, he was British, but not white enough for some. Has Kibworth become better or worse since then in terms of community cohesion?

Forward 35 years to the treatment of the person who sells the Big Issue outside the Co-op. At first, she stood at the store entrance to get the best footfall and to shelter from the worst of the winter weather. Now she stands by the public bench outside the Co-op where no protection from wind and rain exists. It appears this follows a complaint from a customer and that complaint referred to begging.

The Big Issue is a charity and its sellers follow a code and comply with employment and charity laws. The public is free to buy or decline the magazine, just as people may take a walk. Therefore, neither begging nor harassment are involved. Big Issue selling arose to provide people whose circumstances make a 9-5 routine job impossible but who still wish to earn income. The hours are flexible, allowing for childcare.

I would like to know why someone wished to complain about this cheerful and courteous person. I despair of some things right now, but I cannot believe that most Kibworth residents objected to her activities. Her sole offence was to say hello or Happy Christmas with a smile.

The Co-op has questions to answer. Who banned the seller from the Co-op site and on what grounds? Did anyone take steps to ensure the complainant represented wider village feeling? How does this action fit with the core values of the Co-op? What is the logical extension of this decision if pushed to extremes? Can I ask for poppy sellers to be barred because they have no white poppies? Can I request people no longer tie yappy dogs outside the store entrance? Whatever happened to tolerance?

I would like to hear anyone who complained explain their reasons. Do they think the seller should cease and draw benefits? Would it be acceptable if she stayed but sold a publication with a different political tone? Would it be acceptable if the seller had a different gender or ethnic background?

Finally, what kind of community do we want Kibworth to be?

Mark Penfold