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...