The Conservative-dominated Oxfordshire county council voted today to pass the Conservative cabinet's budget, which provides for £2m cuts to our library service and the withdrawal of funding for 20 of our libraries- including Botley.
Does this mean that our battle to Save Botley Library is over? Far from it. There now follows a two month period of consulation. During that time, we will be redoubling our efforts to Save Botley library and to exert maximum pressure on the county council cabinet to change their mind. Those county councillors who shamefully voted for the budget today, ignoring the views of their constituents, need to be made aware that if they don't change their policy, they are likely to face challenges by anti-cuts and library campaigners at the next local elections. Considering that most only got elected on a very small turnout, they would be very vulnerable to being unseated by independent candidates, campaigning on popular local issues and not taking their cue from No 10 Downing Street.
We're told that the issue of library closures are not 'political', but the fact is that it is the Conservatives who are the ones who are threatening our library service. And the Conservative Party in Oxfordshire (and that includes Nicola Blackwood, MP for Oxford West and Abingdon), must understand that they will pay a very heavy price at the next elections unless they change their approach and start listening to people.
UPDATE: It's not just the Conservative County Council which is threatening the future of our much loved library. It's the Lib Dem controlled Vale of White Horse District Council, too:
The Oxford Mail reports:
A TWO-ACRE site has been put up for sale to create a new shopping quarter in Botley.
Vale of White Horse District Council wants to sell a site next to West Way Shopping Centre to tempt developers and major retailers to help regenerate the area. The plot is currently home to Botley Baptist Church, Seacourt Hall and Botley Library
The Vale's own press release states:
At this preliminary stage it is intended that Botley Baptist Church will be relocated off-site in suitable alternative premises. It is expected that the reprovision of Seacourt Hall will be included as part of the agreement to develop the site.
Botley public library, which is part of the existing site, not owned by the Vale, is currently designated for closure by Oxfordshire County Council,
So no word, at this stage anyway, that 'reprovision of Botley Library will be included as part of the agreement to develop the site'.
The Vale of White Horse District Council seems to think that the closure of Botley Library is a fait accompli. We'll show them about that!