28 Mar 2011

Libraries and Tory claims

Tories are claiming victory in a party flyer for saving a library - library campaigners are understandably furious as not one Tory spoke up at the County meeting to stop library cuts and it is of course the Tories that are closing the libraries - see details here. Meanwhile libraries are closing (incl mobile service) and many like Moreton (the busiest in the Cotswolds) still face becoming a link library despite population growth in the area - see here. There are so many other examples....

Pic by local artist Russ

I was also shocked to see that our own MP Neil Carmichael said in the House of Commons in a debate on the Big Society: "In Gloucestershire we are benefiting from a sensible and forward-thinking county council paving the way for local people to take over libraries. This is excellent. Does he agree we should encourage more such initiatives across the piece?"

This chimes a little differently from his what he told Liz Hillary, a Green party member, who has written to the local press. In his response to her he does not say that he thinks it is a good idea to get volunteers to run libraries:

I wrote to Stroud MP Neil Carmichael about Stonehouse Library to see what the plans were for the 12 hours per week it is to be open: would it operate from the same building (I believe there are plans to sell it off), would it have access to Gloucestershire County books etc?  Mr Carmichael directed me to the County Council.

I also asked the question about whether the present cuts were due to the current financial situation and if so, would services be mothballed until finances are in a better shape (in which case, you cannot justify selling off buildings that house services) or do the cuts respresent future policy whatever the financial situation is.  Mr Carmichael stated that 'I will fight for more central Government funding but the Council must decide how to spend it whether that is on Libraries or not.'  He seems to be saying that his constituency should get more public money in the future.

I would therefore urge Stroud residents, whatever their political persuasion, to fight for their public services and the buildings that house them.  Once libraries, police stations and youth centres are sold off, there is very little chance of there ever being the money to buy them a space in the future.

GCC are still using Buckinghamshire as a model as a way for volunteers to run libraries - yet even in Bucks they are saying there are difficulties - as campaigners point out comparing Tuffley (ranking in the top 10% deprived areas in the County) to affluent Buckinghamshire is just not fair - see here. Plus it is worth a look at info gained under a Freedom of Information request here re County correspondence with the Museums Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) over their plans for our library service.

See more re campaign at: http://foclibrary.wordpress.com/

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