Many of our residents were at Area Committee last night to voice their support for keeping Headington Library open. County Officer Simon Kearey was there to explain the process. Expressions of interest from communities to retain libraries earmarked for closure must be in by the end of February 2011, and can be registered on firstname.lastname@example.org. The “consultation” on whether libraries will have their funding discontinued will happen from March – May 2011. Bids to continue a local library service in a different way will be appraised at the end of June but we don’t know who is doing the appraising and what criteria they will use. There will be guidance for community groups but it’s not ready yet. There is a £600K pot of money which groups can bid into to pay for setting up the alternative management arrangements for both libraries and youth activities.
It is hard to see how the Cabinet member can reassure our residents that these proposals are not yet set in stone, as there will be a Cabinet meeting on 25 January to agree the budget and the budget sign-off will happen on 15 February by the Full County Council, over which the Conservatives have full control. The cuts to the Library budget are already included in the Tory budget proposals.
This means that by the time the “consultation period” takes place, the funding from libraries will have been cut so dramatically that it will be almost impossible to argue a case for funding to be continued for the libraries on the ‘hit list’.
People at the meeting showed their frustration about (a) lack of consultation (b) lack of information and (c) the impracticality of timescales given by the County. It was resolved that the Chair and Vice Chair of NEAC (Cllr Darke and Ruth) will arrange for a group to meet the Cabinet Member for Libraries, Cllr Mrs Judith Heathcoat and other senior officers to find out more information and discuss the options for a fallback plan if our efforts to save the Library in its current form do not succeed. We are asking for representatives from community groups including Headington Action and Save Headington Library to go with us to ensure that the views of local residents are discussed fully.
In addition to this the four county councillors from NE Area are asking for ten days consultancy time to be spent on community development in the area – including public library provision