Library users across the county are bitterly disappointed that Gloucestershire County Council administration has declined an invitation to a public meeting about the future of our libraries. The meeting was planned in view of the recent High Court ruling on the County Council’s proposed changes to the library service giving due regard to public sector equality duties, and the council’s stated commitment to approach the library strategy with an open mind. Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries worked hard to organize this meeting at a neutral venue and with a neutral chair, to discuss the best way forward, following requests for such an event from library users and community groups across the county.
In an email refusing the invitation Council Leader Mark Hawthorne wrote
“While we appreciate the invitation to attend a public meeting hosted by Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries on 14th December, this is premature, as I have already highlighted there are no plans to discuss at the moment”.
Johanna Anderson from Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries said
“The email also stated that draft plans are being drawn up now and that the GCC Cabinet will meet to confirm them on 20th January. This seems very rushed, especially given the holiday period. We cannot understand why a meeting to be held only a month before this date could be deemed as “premature”. We feel that Gloucestershire County Council is once again failing to engage with library users and we are extremely concerned, as it was this failure to listen to our concerns about their previous plans that led the Courts to declare them unlawful with a bill of £100,000 for tax payers. We fear that lessons have not been learned and they are set to make the same mistakes again. We had hoped that bridges could be built and that open, transparent dialogue could be started. We have to ask – what are they afraid of?”
Despite this disappointing response from Gloucestershire County Council the meeting will still go ahead to enable library users to discuss ways forward. The meeting will start at 7pm Wednesday 14 December 2011 at Gloucestershire Association for Voluntary and Community Action (GAVCA), 75-81 Eastgate Street, Gloucester. All welcome.
Please note : This is not a meeting with “a pressure group” as has been disappointingly reported today in some of the local press but an open public meeting. Representatives from community groups and library users from across the county are attending. All views are encouraged in the interest of facilitating an open, positive dialogue. It is a shame that GCC do not want to be a part of this