Sunday, 16 January 2011

The Body in the Library? The Body IS the Library!

In no sense does the council tax payer get the impression that 20 out of 43 Libraries are to be axed by cash-strapped Oxfordshire County Council as a LAST resort, rather than a first resort. Where is that schedule of less drastic options they have considered/rejected and why isn't it on transparent public display? Does it bear any relation to the 100 suggestions to cut council spending without cutting services in this article of two years ago, at least half of which seem eminently sensible? Nor do we see any leading councillors offering to take a pay cut, even as a public gesture to show they care/we really are 'all in this together', if times are so genuinely tough.

And more than one commentator in the local press has pointed out that these cuts will actually save very little money in real terms as our Libraries are pretty economical to run in the first place with many smaller branches already open for reduced hours. In addition they apparently cost less than 0.5% of the council's revenue budget!

How too does a 4.4% cut in funding from central government equate to an almost 50% cut in libraries and other council services? Now my maths may not be my strongest suit, but even I smell a rat here, even larger than a County Council passing heftier cuts onto their customers to make a political point/cream off some profit and blame the government.

A colleague with a longer memory than my own reminded me this week that if you think about it, we've seen nearly 30 years of public assets being stripped or sold off by councils to be privatised, so that nearly every utility, building and even road bridge is now owned by someone else, not unusually an offshore or foreign concern. This selling off of Britain has left many councils with very little left to sell off when they want to raise a bit of short-term cash. They have now centralised their own services to a large degree, flogging off any buildings/brownfield sites created, disposed of most of their council housing stock, so what do they have left?

Why those useless libraries, day centres and youth clubs cluttering up the county obviously. And you don't want too many of them in a property hotspot like Oxfordshire. Ok, so it might bring you below the legal minimum service standard you are obliged to provide in return for people's council tax, but maybe that's a risk worth taking. How many people have the resources the commitment and the time to sue after all? Especially when hit with so many outrages to protest against all at once. Most people will just mouth off for a while and then eventually accept the new status quo. Until it's time to break the news to them of the next cuts planned...


Steve said...

Educate the lower classes for free? Give people free access to knowledge and new media? We can't possibly have that in new feudal England!

Wisewebwoman said...

Those lower classes? Borrowing books to educate themselves should be verboten!

Back to serfdom with the lot of them.

Keep 'em ignorant!


The Sagittarian said...

Thankfully we haven't seen that here YET, however I believe the thin end of the wdge has started...about 15 months ago our council decided to close one of the local swimming pools, am sure this is just the start

Nota Bene said...

Councils tend to be quite ignorant...perhaps they don't read enough...

Barry Coidan said...

It's partly our own fault. We'd much prefer money in our pockets to buy all the enticing consumer goods than pay more in taxes to provide for community services.

We won't learn until all our libraries are Tesco's Local stores and all our swimming pools filled in and built on.

brokenbiro said...

You touch upon the most disturbing thing about the Governments/local Council's cutbacks in your last paragraph - there are so many services up for the chop that, despite the fact the country would be up in arms about any single one of them, there are too many fronts to fight on at the moment.

Libraries are a good starting place - I'm from Wirral where there was a massive public outcry when they tried to close half the libraries 2 years ago - forcing a Council U-turn... so it CAN be done!

The Poet Laura-eate said...

It would be depressing to think that a battle won in the mid-19th C needed to be fought afresh all over again Steve.

WWW, Is that akin to mushroom management techniques?

Sagittarian, that is indeed worrying, unless the area was genuinely oversubscribed for swimming pools.

Notabene. You're quite right. I think they should renew their Library cards!

Barry, good point, but I suppose in the current climate with people being forced to revert to 1970s spending habits, they might also find themselves reverting to 1970s library borrowing habits. Providing they are still there of course.

Thanks for the encouragement re the Wirral Broken Biro. I do feel we are under a multi-pronged attack from both central government and local government to push masses of stuff through, but how they think it will win votes for them I do not understand, unless they know they are not going to win again, so are determined to wreak as much havoc as possible whilst in power, or make their mark somehow, even if that mark is more like a large blot.