Politicians & Library Cuts

When we first heard about the disproportionate cuts facing our libraries many people in Gloucestershire contacted their Councillors to urge them to support  libraries and to oppose the cuts. The responses received feature further down this page. Since we received this information the council voted in the devastating cuts. All of the Conservatives voted “for” and all the others “against”. The focus of our campaign was not political because libraries and the campaign to save them had supporters, from across the political spectrum, united in their love of libraries. It quickly became clear however that the Conservatives are the sole party who want to see the end of our public library service.

For a full list of the Conservative Councillors who disregarded the wishes of Gloucestershire constituents and voted for the destruction of our libraries see the top 4.5 rows of faces here you might like to remember them when the next elections come round and vote FOR libraries by getting them out.

Is your councillor or MP for or against the destruction of our library service? This page maps their responses to our campaign letters. It has been bought to our attention that some of the very people that voted FOR the library cuts are astonishingly now claiming to be the saviours of our libraries in their election fliers. This page will be a record of the truth. Email us any responses you have received to  foc.cheltlib@gmail.com and we will add them to this page. Do you want to write to your councillors but you are not sure who they are? Find out here.

FOR

Neil Carmichael MP: Conservative – Stroud

I have discussed the Council’s proposals in detail and am satisfied that the Council’s proposals are considered, given the financial cuts required of the Council and its need to identify its priorities.

Richard Graham MP : Conservative – Gloucester

These buildings only close if no-one in the community is prepared to do anything about them. I know of volunteers in M&R already keen to be involved and I’m sure all of you do too. ‘Save our library’ campaigns miss the point entirely. It’s all about how communities get a plan organised by the end of April. Some councillors will get moving, show community leadership and sort things out: and others will prefer to protest. Residents can decide which approach they prefer in due course.
Suggest those interested in making things happen go to the county council meeting on this – I think on Dec 9th – which explains eg the 21 year lease pepper corn lease, insurance paid by council etc offer as well as the ownership offer.
No doubt the Gateway Trust and GL Communities, both based in Matson and both with considerable resources, will want to be involved.
best regards
Richard

Cllr Antonia Noble : Conservative (Cabinet member with responsibility for libraries) – Lansdown, Park and Warden Hill

Cllr Mark Hawthorne : Conservative (Council Leader) – Moreland

Cllr Paul McLain : Conservative – Charlton Kings

Thank you for your email about Hester’s Way library.  I want to make it clear that we really do understand the value that libraries can add- that is why, unlike councils elsewhere in the country, we’re working very hard to find ways to keep them open where we can.
Unfortunately, at the moment there are very difficult choices to be made.  We have to find £108m in savings from the County Council’s total budget of around £400m over the coming years and our cheque from the government will be getting smaller from April. The Council must decide between repairing roads and protecting children from abuse, or between libraries and caring for older vulnerable people.  All of these things are important services – and to put more money into one pot, it has to be taken out of another.
We really want people in Gloucestershire to have their say and engage in the process of deciding what we spend money on in future. The council has already had a significant response from the public – who told us that our priorities should be helping older and vulnerable people and protecting children from abuse.  They also said that we should look at areas like libraries to make savings.  I appreciate that you are arguing we should put more money back into libraries – but that money has to come from somewhere else in the budget.  If you have thoughts on where that should be I would be happy to hear them.
In the meantime, it is because we appreciate the value of libraries that we are working so hard to keep them open– including handing them over to the community and volunteers to run.  It has proven a successful way elsewhere in the country to keep libraries operating – and I have every reason to believe that the same will be true in Gloucestershire.  There are already some really exciting and promising discussions going on with parish councils and community groups around the county, including in Hester’s Way. For obvious reasons – at this stage I regret I am unable to give more detail.

Note: It has been revealed there has actually been no successful example of such plans anywhere else. “unable to give you more detail” makes it very difficult to engage in consultation! “The council has already had a significant response from the public” actually it was less than 1% of the Gloucestershire’s population who responded to a fundamentally flawed “consultation” as detailed elsewhere on this site.

C llrJohn Stanley Waddington : Conservative – Nailsworth and Minchinhampton

Thank you for your email.  We live in very difficult times and I shall be losing two libraries in my own Division unless alternative arrangements can be set up and so I much appreciate your concern.  I have passed your email to the cabinet member responsible for libraries for her attention and in the meantime, I can only suggest that you do as I am doing and encourage your community to take advantage of the offer available in order to build a sustainable community library service into the future.
StanW

Cllr Barry Dare : Conservative – Moreton – Stow, Cotswolds

I am emailing to acknowledge receipt of your email of 30th November 2010.
I have great sympathy with your view but regrettably the Comprehensive Spending Review flagged up the necessity for massive cuts to the County Council’s budget.  Since then we have now received news of the settlement and I fear that the earlier plans to accommodate the restriction of the funds now look to be optimistic as the cuts will have to be even deeper.
For your information you might care to note that Cotswold District Council and Stroud District Council are the two most affected in the whole country.

Turkdean Parish Council – (letter from Vivien Burford, Chairman)

Dear FOGL

I am writing in response to your Library circular to inform you that Turkdean Parish will not be supporting your Petition opposing cuts in the Library Service.
We have benefited from the Mobile Service but following discussions regarding the necessary reductions in costs for Gloucestershire CC we agreed that the Mobile Service is a luxury which can no longer be afforded and indeed is no longer necessary.  Concentrating resources on the finer Library provision would be most appropriate and realistic course.

It would be interesting to know if the 10,600 petitioners actually used the library services in the last year.

See here for further comment on this astonishing letter

AGAINST

Alistair Cameron : Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesman for Tewkesbury

Having looked on your website, I am writing to express my opposition to the proposed cuts to the library service in Gloucestershire.
Many people of all ages place great value on the County’s library service and it will be major step backward  to allow them to deteriorate. For school children, students and many people, libraries are a valuable resource which they can use for research and furthering their studies. For older people, they are an opportunity obtain reading material which they would not be able to access if they cannot get to the nearest major library. This will have a real affect on the quality of life of many people.
The loss or significant reduction of so many libraries will have a devastating impact on many of our communities in Gloucestershire. It also seems crazy that the County Council has only recently invested so much money on improving our library service including building new libraries and we are now going to throw much of this away.
I also believe consideration should be given to offering even more services from our excellent local libraries.

Diane Hibbert & Dave Prince : P.A.B – Oakley, Pittville & Prestbury

Thank you for your email.  I am replying on behalf of Cllr Prince and myself. I would like to update you on the work that we are both doing regarding the library service.
Firstly at the Council Meeting last week we spoke out against the proposals to reduce spending on Libraries and we both supported a motion against these cuts, unfortunately the motion was lost as the conservative group voted against the motion. We have had discussions with Antonia Noble, in order to re-affirm with her our objection to her proposals for Gloucestershire libraries and in particular the Library provision in Prestbury. We have now arranged a meeting with Sue Lawrence, GCC officer, Antonia Noble, cabinet member and an officer representing the Assets management team who appear to be intent on selling off our library buildings, where we will be repeating again our opposition to the plans and to explore alternative options. To clarify we are wholly opposed to the  current proposals for the Gloucestershire library services.

Cllr Skinner & Cll Sheppard : Lib Dem – St Marks, St Pauls and St Peters (since this letter Cllr Skinner has attended our meetings in support of our campaign)

Thank you so much for taking the time and trouble to write to Mike and I, raising concerns over the proposed closure of Hesters Way library. Mike and I share these concerns, and were shocked to find that the proposal was to close this particular library.The cabinet will be discussing their proposals on Thursday, and I am glad that you have sent your questions into Jane Cleaver so that they may respond to them at the start of the meeting.
Both Mike and I intend to defend the library strongly, and have the opportunity at full Council to put forward strong arguments as to why it should be maintained, not least as you say, because of the area in which it sits. We will keep in touch, and thanks once again for writing to us.
Yours sincerely,
Charmian Sheppard

Thankyou for this sound and realistic email with its useful link to the Swindon Advertiser report. I have forwarded it to all the County Councillors in our (Lib-Dem) group and will be raising the points you make at a meeting tonight of the Hesters Way Partnership. The reports of the consultations done across the County clearly ask for protection of vulnerable groups as you say. Our group is already preparing “Councillors questions” to be asked and a Motion to be put at the Full Council meeting on the 24th November.     I am sure there will be ‘questions asked’ at the Cabinet meeting on 18th, but all members of the Cabinet are from the Conservative group.  We are not allowed to join in any debate they have at that meeting.
Best regards,
County Councillor Mike Skinner

Christopher Pallet : Lib Dem – Hesters Way and Up Hatherley (Cllr Pallet has since attended our meetings in support of our campaign)

I completely agree with you about Hesters Way Library and will be arguing against closure. I also agree with your points about access for older people and the possible impact on the area. You may be aware that a campaign group Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries has been set up to oppose library closures.

From Matson and Robinswood Councillors.
Cllrs Kate Haigh, Mary Smith, Jan Lugg – Labour, Gloucester City Council
Cllr Steve McHale – Leader of Labour group, Gloucestershire County, Council

We recognise and value the important work done in our community by Matson Library. We fully support the campaign to stop it from closing. Running a good library service is not a job that can be done by amateurs, without resources or even full access to books! We will work with our community to try and maintain a Library in Matson, for Matson.
We believe that the closure of the Library will damage our community and that the County Council’s platitudes are insincere. We support the County-wide campaign to save our libraries.

Cllr Phillip Booth – Green, Stroud District councillor for Randwick, Whiteshill and Ruscombe ward,

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.

Dear FOGL

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson – Lib Dem Cotswold District Councillor for Churn Valley

Libraries provide a valuable public service and especially so in our less accessible Cotswold towns like Tetbury, Moreton, Fairford and Bourton. The changes being mooted by the County Council’s administration are a cut too far and do not take into account the needs of those who have no car or who don’t have the funds to buy books. The County Council must think again and cut out its own waste and bureaucracy before hitting residents.