Letter received from Nick Hurst on behalf of MPC in reply to our letters given to the MPC Meeting on 28/02/11

Letter to Ms. E. Heller, Co-ordinator of FoML, dated 4th March 2011

Dear Ms. Heller,

Library Services in Minchinhampton

Thank you for your two letters of 24th and 28th February.

At its meeting on 28th the Parish Council received the statement prepared jointly by Ian Crawley and me, following my meeting with FoML on the 21st.  I believe that statement broadly answers the issues raised in your first letter concerning the continuity of County library service.  You are welcome to publish it on your website, and indeed it has been posted on the MPC’s own.

So as to leave no doubt, I am happy to confirm that the Parish Council fully supports your efforts to maintain a County service in Minchinhampton, although we, perhaps taking a more pragmatic view, recognise that that is unlikely to be in its current form.

The second letter is a request for an undertaking not to enter into any agreement with GCC that might pre-empt the first objective.  It raises a number of issues, and obviously the Library Steering Group, the body on which FoML is represented, will need to consider these, and make recommendations.  This is not, therefore, at this stage, a directly accountable MPC matter.

  1. If the review takes months we do not have that time, given the timescale the GCC are using.
  2. I am now told that while the judicial review is in progress Mark Hawthorne will not engage in any conversation with any group that might be construed to be involved with Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries.  I have to say I understand why he would take that view, and it is undoubtedly with legal advice.  In other words, the review may ultimately prove counter-productive, if we stop all activity relating to discussions with the County.

The Parish Council view is, therefore, that conversations should continue to take place with GCC at all levels but I acknowledge and accept your request that no decisions are reached without further consultation with our groups.

Our Future Service Provision Working Party is not affiliated with any pressure group, and Cllr. Hawthorne is prepared to continue discussions with it to find common ground.  We are, after all, still concerned with the well-being of the Youth Club.  For us, this is not a single-issue concern, and Minchinhampton Parish Council is of the opinion that dialogue must proceed as the only practical course, albeit perhaps without formal conclusion.

Lastly, I would appreciate prior warning of any large-scale attendances at our Parish Council meetings, as it raised major safety and logistical concerns.  I should have suspended the meeting.  My personal view is that it did not materially assist you to make your points, as we recognise the importance of continuing a library service irrespective of lobby pressure.

Yours sincerely

Nick Hurst, Chairman of Minchinhampton Parish Council

THE STATEMENT PREPARED BY IAN CRAWLEY AND NICK HURST CAN BE SEEN IN FULL ON THE ‘STEERING GROUP’ PAGE

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Two letters presented to MPC at the Council Meeting of 28/02/11

The MPC Meeting on Monday 28th February 2011 was well attended by Friends of Minchinhampton Library (FoML) and the Coordinator presented two letters (click here to read them on Letters page dated 28/02/11) to the Parish Council and asked the following two questions:

  • There are a large number of people here tonight, who are concerned about the library, and are here because for many of us our County Library is much more than a place where you borrow books and in its present form it is an essential part of our community life: a place of early learning for the young and a really vital ‘life-line’ for older residents.  So please can you take a few minutes to tell us how you see the future of the library and if in your forthcoming negotiations with GCC we can rely upon you to try to keep County Library Services available in Minchinhampton?
  • Can you undertake to given us a written reply to our letters?

Nick Hurst, as Chairman of MPC, responded verbally speaking about a pragmatic approach by MPC and undertook to give us a written reply to our letters as soon as possible.

We understand that subsequently MPC debated the future of library services in Minchinhampton.  We understand that the minutes of this meeting will be available in draft form on 21/03/11 and the finalised version on 28/03/11 at the next MPC meeting.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Article in The Guardian about High Court challenge

Campaigners launch legal challenge to library closures

Claims that cuts proposed by Somerset and Gloucestershire councils violate statutory obligations due to be tested in the high court ………

Click here to read the full article

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Library Closures Row in High Court

A High Court challenge is being launched over public library closures in Gloucestershire and Somerset.

The challenge will focus on the legality of proposals drawn up by county councils to cut the numbers of libraries in their areas, says legal firm Public Interest Lawyers (PIL).

The application for judicial review is expected to be the first of its kind and questions the ability of David Cameron’s Big Society, with its “vague notions”, to deliver statutory services to the public.

To read the full article click here

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Nick Hurst’s Letter to Mark Hawthorne

Click here to read Nick Hurst’s letter to Mark Hawthorne re: Minchinhampton Library

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

GCC Meeting 16/02/11

Our Library is too good to lose – books not cuts’

Welcome to the Friends of Minchinhampton Library blog

As anticipated, the Conservative majority (40:23) voted through the budget cuts.  This defines the general policy for the Library Service in Gloucestershire but now that ‘the proposals’ have become decisions more action can be taken to stand up for the libraries.

In question time at the Council Meeting, Conservative Stroud District Councillor Joe Forbes asked a very pertinent question about the ‘irrational closure’ of Minchinhampton Library.

Cllr Stan Waddington presented a 2,000+ signature petition objecting to the closure of our library to the Council on behalf of FoML.  We have received a written assurance from the Council that they will respond formally to our petition within 28 days.

So watch our website and Friends of Gloucestershire website for future developments.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Cllr Stan Waddington to present our petition to full council on 16th February 2011

On 16th February 2011 Cllr Stan Waddington will present our 1723 signature petition to full council at Shire Hall.  This will include the letter which FoML gave to Cllrs Mark Hawthorne & Antonia Noble last Thursday 11th February:

“The Case for keeping a GCC Library in Minchinhampton

The Friends of Minchinhampton Library recognise there will have to be a share of the cuts and elements of change within the Gloucestershire County Library Service.  Please rethink your proposal to remove the County Library Service from Minchinhampton.

In view of the over-whelming public opinion in Minchinhampton against the proposal to close the library, exemplified by a 1400 signature petition collected in only seven days, we wish GCC to re-categorise our library so that we remain within the County Library system, albeit with reduced hours.

The implications of the proposed closure of Minchinhampton Library (and alternatives available) do not appear to have been thought through and taken into account.  Having the library in Minchinhampton is essential for the sustainability of our community.  The closure will impact adversely on the education of our young people, the health of older people, the cohesion of our community and the viability of local shops.

The following facts are fundamental to our case:

  • statistical comparison with other libraries

According to GCC statistics, Minchinhampton Library loans nearly 20,000 more items per annum than Stow, which is proposed to have its hours increased; and 13,000 more than Fairford, which is proposed to become a Library Express.

  • deprivation

Contrary to public perception and according to MAIDeN statistics Minchinhampton ward has pockets of high deprivation.  Parts of the ward are within the worst 20% for deprivation in the county.

  • ageing population

According to the National Statistics, 33% of our residents are over 60.  This is 12% higher than the national average (2001 Census).  The population over 60 years of age is anticipated to increase by more than 50% by 2026 (Gloucestershire Story 2009).

  • accessibility

The time and cost of public transport, the limited availability of private cars and the lack of parking near to Stroud Library mean it is not a realistic alternative to travel to other libraries, particularly for the elderly and parents with young children. The cost of bus fares, £3.75 return to Stroud and £2.30 return to Nailsworth, equates to £180 for 48 trips a year to use Stroud Library.  There is a poor two-hourly bus service to Stroud and an even more limited one to Nailsworth.

  • location of library

The library is ideally situated in the centre of the community with free on and off- street parking; adjacent to the school, doctors’ surgery and sheltered housing; within two hundred metres of Holy Trinity Church and the High Street (twelve shops, one cafe, one take-away, two restaurants and a pub); with level walking access from all parts of the town.

One of the aims of the Gloucestershire Integrated Economic Strategy 2009 to 2015 is to ensure that “market towns are the social, commercial and business hub of rural life”.  Closing our library would not only significantly reduce the number of visits to the centre of our town (the library receives 23 visits/hour) which help to maintain it as a social and commercial hub, closing our library would also contradict the mission in the Economic Strategy to create a low carbon economic environment in which communities thrive.

Conclusions

There is a very strong case for Minchinhampton Library to be re-categorised within your proposals, at the very least, as a Library Express.  We are asking GCC to take full account of the unique factors present in Minchinhampton and of the full impact of the withdrawal of the County Library Service and mobile library service upon the residents of the town and the surrounding settlements, particularly Amberley, Avening, Box, Brimscombe, Bussage and Chalford.

We trust that the above will inform your decision and we look forward to your favourable response.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment