Cllr Philip Booth : Stroud District councillor for Randwick, Whiteshill and Ruscombe ward forwarded us a copy of this letter that he has sent to the local press. Councillor Booth has also posted this letter on his website here where he has commented further
I welcome the letter to the SNJ urging a rethink of cuts to the library service (8.12.10). Cuts are inevitable with the Con Dem slashing of Council funding, but a 43% cut to libraries is disproportionate and hugely damaging to communities. Libraries represent only 1.45% of County Council budget, but are used by 250,000 people each month. They will be needed more than ever as other budgets are cut.
Eleven libraries, including Minch and the mobile services are to be closed. Many busy libraries, like Quedgeley despite being in an area of growth, face massive cuts. Seven other libraries including Nailsworth, Wotton and Stonehouse are to be cut to 3 hours staffing a week. If ‘partners’ are not found we will lose these as well. The professional skills of librarians cannot be replaced by volunteers. Many people will be significantly further away from a library. The County cannot argue that this will be a comprehensive library service that they must provide by law.
Cuts will impact on the quality of life and increase social isolation of many. Community activities and storytelling will be lost. The cuts will be doubly hard as day services to older people and people with learning disabilities along with bus services are also cut. Where can people go? Even the Culture Minister Ed Vaizey says, “A strong library service, based around the needs of local people, can play a key role in our ambitions to build the Big Society by providing safe and inclusive spaces for people to read, learn and access a range of community services.”
We are moving towards an ‘e-society’ yet these cuts remove the ability of those least able to participate. Everything is internet-based: job hunting, homework, registering for housing and even the libraries consultation. Libraries play a vital role in improving access and assisting people to input highly sensitive information. Cuts will also impact on literacy. A child can lose 18 months reading skills in the six week period of the summer holidays if they don’t regularly read. How can parents afford books to improve reading skills and knowledge?
Both the library and the Corporate Strategy consultation are at best confusing. If the aim is to hear what people feel about their libraries and how we can make savings then they fail bitterly. These cuts will directly hit the most vulnerable members of our communities. A rethink is urgently needed if we are not to do permanent damage.