Once again we are finding ourselves in the position of having to provide some balance to the spin coming from Gloucestershire County Council. Given what has appeared in the unquestioning press over the last few days you would be forgiven for thinking that the public fully back the draconian library cuts GCC wish to implement. The fact is that they don’t, as we explained here.
Those who will suffer the worst impacts of the cuts are being ignored.
Lechlade, a community that is having their library taken away by Gloucestershire County Council, has today shared a letter with us they have sent to Councilor Hawthorne in a last ditch attempt to be heard. They are understandably furious. This letter has been printed below with their permission.
Dear Councillor Hawthorne,
When the GCC published its first library strategy the Lechlade Civic Society was dismayed by the logical and factual errors it contained in relation to the Lechlade library. After these anomalies were identified to the GCC, we were outraged when the final report was published still containing the same errors. When this report was accepted by Cabinet, and subsequently rubber-stamped by Council, we provided full support to the legal challenge that resulted. The findings by the Court, and in particular the judgement that the GCC proposals were “unlawful and amounted to bad government” resonated with our own experience.
Nevertheless, when the GCC subsequently launched its Library Strategy Consultation the Lechlade Civic Society participated fully despite having grave reservations regarding the quality of the Vector Research survey questionnaire. Further, we continued to try to find a pragmatic solution whereby Lechlade could have a Partnership library in the future. Such a solution was fully costed and, with the support of our neighbours in Fairford, a viable proposal was made to our County Councillor, Mr R Theodoulou. Now, in an email from him dated 27 March 2012, we learn that “the GCC is not minded to concede to our proposals and that the idea is too far removed from the models proposed by the GCC; neither was the Authority convinced about the cost neutrality of the idea”.
Once again the GCC has laid bare it’s complete disdain for any “ideas” other than their own preconceived “solutions” even when the latter are based on erroneous facts and logic. We maintain that the basis of the library consultation is flawed, that a viable alternative for Lechlade has been discarded without full consideration, and that the outcome of this latest consultation is markedly the same as the original. As such, we believe it is an affront to basic democratic values.
In light of all the evidence that supports a viable, cost-effective, Partnership Library in Lechlade, and in light of the continuing failure of GCC to tackle the question of access to a comprehensive and efficient library service for vulnerable members of the public, will the Council now please follow the proper democratic procedure of negotiating the utterly reasonable request of Fairford and Lechlade Councils to collaborate in providing a Partnership library for Lechlade?
You should be in no doubt that this request has the overwhelming support of Lechlade’s inhabitants. Only if this is done can the GCC Cabinet ask the full Council to support a Library Strategy that will not, once again, risk a full legal challenge. Localism is above all a concept of partnership in which dictatorial, unsupportable and unpopular actions have no place.
Stewart M Bruce
Chairman, Lechlade & District Civic Society