Since an injunction was issued by the High Courts halting the implementation of Gloucestershire County Council’s library cuts until the case for judicial review has been heard on July 7th, Gloucestershire County Council have, in their usual rather bullish manner, displayed astonishing disregard for the terms of the injunction. In the last few days the political spin machine has gone into overdrive and several press releases, television news items and newspaper articles have been brought to our attention that indicate GCC is very much continuing with their plans.
The latest, published in the Citizen newspaper and online on ThisisGloucestershire contains the bizarre claim from Council leader Mark Hawthorne that;
“people are saying that this is what they want”
In fact, quite the opposite is true judging by the consultation feedback obtained by a FoGL member through FOI, and the ongoing opposition to the plans expressed through overwhelming support from library users for the legal challenge and fundraising campaign.
Councillor Hawthorne claims that his administration are giving community groups an ‘opportunity’ that they are ‘excited’ to take up. This rather flies in the face of what we’ve been told by many of these same community groups, who support our campaign, and have only submitted business plans as they felt it was the only option open to them to avoid a complete withdrawal of service from their area with all the negative social impacts this implies – this was never an opportunity, but an ultimatum.
Cllr Hawthorne has also responded to the news of the High Court injunction by saying;
“This is very frustrating for council taxpayers and community groups at a time when 20 communities have stepped forward with innovative and exciting business plans to take over their local facility”
But far from being ‘frustrated’ by the legal challenge several of these groups have contacted us to express their support, with some even contributing funds.
Today Lechlade Library Working Group, who have submitted a business case to take on Lechlade Library, issued a formal statement to the local press in response to Cllr. Hawthorne’s recent claims, and have agreed that we may share it here:
“We are surprised to note Cllr Hawthorne’s comments in response to the court injunction stopping GCC from closing libraries across the county. Lechlade has consistently argued against the closure of our library by the County. Two public meetings and an 800 signature petition have endorsed the Town Council’s requests that the County continue their provision, but they have refused to do so. In order to secure a library service for our residents we have reluctantly submitted a bid to take over the library, but hope that this will not be necessary and that the County will be forced, either by the courts, or by the Secretary of State who is currently reviewing the County’s proposals, to maintain the existing service.”
Sue Coakley, Chair Lechlade Library Working Group
This really says it all, and we’re sure Lechlade are not alone in their feelings about the ‘opportunity’ they have been presented with. In the meantime, Cllr. Hawthorne will keep spinning away - he must be quite dizzy by now.