Thursday 5th May is local elections day. Four members of the Save Botley Library steering committee, Neil Clark, Ag MacKeith, Andrew Pritchard, and Anissa Schlichting are standing for election to North Hinksey Parish Council. In addition Neil Clark is also standing as an Independent for election to the Vale of White Horse District Council. As we mentioned here yesterday, Save Botley Library Chair Mike Sage has written a letter to all six candidates in the Vale election asking for their view on library issues.
Below you can read Mike’s letter and the responses from the six candidates
(Eric Batts & Adam Hardiman (Conservative), Neil Clark (Independent) Andy Crick & Debbie Hallett (Lib Dem) and Grant Nightingale (Green Party).
15th April 2011
I am writing to you on behalf of the Save Botley Library Campaign as we are aware that you are standing as a candidate for the Vale of White Horse District Council in the forthcoming 5th May elections. We would like to understand your position on the potential withdrawal of funding from Botley Library by the County Council and the redevelopment of the area in which the library is currently housed.
Do you support the campaign to keep Botley Library open, run by trained staff and librarians? If so, what form of support would you propose to provide to ensure that this objective is achieved?
If elected, what would you do to ensure that proposed redevelopment of the Botley shopping precinct includes provision of space to house the library, that is at least as big as the existing facilities (and preferably larger)?
We would be grateful for your reply by return so that we can ensure that the supporters of our campaign across the Ward are aware of your position. Without this information they may draw the wrong conclusions about where you stand on the important issue of library provision as they cast their votes.
Chair, Save Botley Library Campaign
REPLIES TO MIKE'S LETTER:
50B Westminster Way
12 Brogden Close
20 April 2011
Dear Mike Save Botley Library Campaign
Many thanks for your letter received yesterday. I am replying on behalf of myself and Eric Batts who also received a letter yesterday from you. As you might know we are both Conservative candidates for the forthcoming Vale of White Horse District elections.
Firstly, may I confirm that both of us wholeheartedly support the campaign to keep our Botley Library open run by trained staff and librarians.
If elected to the Vale the actions we shall take will include:
Meet with the Save the Botley Library Campaign for a full briefing, with regular meetings scheduled thereafter.
Meet with the OCC Cabinet Member for Libraries to establish their latest situation
Meet with Nicola Blackwood the Conservative MP with whom Eric and I already have a close rapport. She is also an ardent supporter of the campaign so the synergy resulting from Conservative Councillors working with a Conservative MP and a Conservative controlled County Council is evident and compelling.
Research which grants could be made available from the Vale. If the Conservatives take control there will clearly be an enhanced motivation for this.
Examine which external grants could be made available. North Hinksey Parish Council has considerable expertise in getting external funding (over £220,000 in the last four years). Some of this generic expertise could surely be put to use for the benefit of the library. Look into the feasibility of housing the Library temporarily in the vacant (Video) shop in the shopping centre together with the adjacent shop which will probably soon be vacated. As Vale councillors we will be good position to facilitate-this - since the Vale owns the shops.
In the longer term ensure that the Vale provides excellent space for the library, perhaps co-located with a new Parish Hall, in connection with the Vale's current re-development proposals.
We are in an excellent position to achieve this. Eric has been for many years on the North Hinksey Parish planning development committee and, if elected, plans to join the Vale Planning Committee so he can use his expert knowledge to ensure that the Botley Library gets the best possible deal. My background includes the Project Management of multi-million pound schemes which will also be put to good use if the
development goes ahead.
Finally, both Eric and I live in North Hinksey so have personal motivation for the success of the Campaign.
Adam Hardiman and Eric Batts
(by email- Neil Clark to Mike Sage)
Here's the answers:
1. Yes, absolutely. I think that privatisation/outsourcing of our library service is a very real danger- the Conservative leader of Oxfordshire County Council, Keith Mitchell, has described the talks that the council has had with the American firm LSSI, as 'positive'. I totally oppose privatisation of our libraries, and the transformation of what should be a public service into a commercial, profit-making enterprise. I also totally oppose making our excellent trained library staff redundant and replacing them with unpaid volunteers. I was a founder member of the Save Botley Campaign and I am the Vice-Chair and the Press Spokesperson of the group. We`ve had great success in getting the County Council to change its original line, but the battle is not over yet, and I - together with my colleagues in the Save Botley Library campaign-will be doing all we can to keep our much-loved library open as a council-run library, staffed by trained librarians.
2. The main reason why I am standing election to the Vale is that, in their press release in February, announcing the redevelopment of West Way, the Vale made no mention of provision of a new library. They seemed to take it as a foregone conclusion that Botley Library would be closing. That angered me and made me determined to try and get elected to the Vale so I could fight the case for Botley Library from within the council. If elected, I will make myself a total nuisance until we get a written guarantee that in any new development of West Way, we will have a new library which is at least as big as the current one. I am not tied to any party and my independence means I will be able to battle 100% for Botley library and for the interests of local people. My very good links with the press will help publicise the campaign for our library, in any new development of West Way.
Liberal Democrat candidate, North Hinksey and Wytham
Fieldtown House, 43a Lower End, Leafield, OX29 9QH
20th April 2011
Thanks for your letter. As you will be aware, I am a strong supporter of the 'save the libraries' campaign and I attended the demonstration at the Sheldonian Theatre on 2nd April. My support is based on my regular use of Botley Library and my conviction that libraries are an important resource for the communities they serve, not just repositories for books. Indeed, I blogged on this very point a few days ago at www.andycrick.org.uk.
To answer your specific questions:
1. I fully support the campaign to keep Botley Library open, run by trained staff and librarians. I intend to offer any support I can, from actively calling for the library to stay open, to working with County Councillor Janet Godden, to make it absolutely clear to the County Council that Botley Library is a popular, well used local amenity which must not close.
2. If I am elected I shall work with the Executive members and officers on the Vale, who will be responsible for agreeing and overseeing any new development to ensure that there remains a library of the same size in the heart of Botley. I would like to see a larger library but I believe that will be a largely operational decision for the department in Oxford which is responsible for libraries. Once again, I will work closely with Cllr Janet Godden to make representations to the County Council for a larger library and I will seek the views of residents on this matter.
Please feel free to contact me if you would like further clarification on my position and please invite your supporters to contact me if they wish to discuss this further.
Liberal Democrat candidate, North Hinksey and Wytham
Thank you for asking me the questions. I’m happy to take the time to reflect and reply. I hope it's OK that I'm using email over snail mail. If you'd like a proper paper letter, please let me know.
You ask: Do I support the campaign to keep Botley Library open, run by trained staff and librarians? If so, what form of support would you propose to provide to ensure that this objective is achieved?
I support the campaign unequivocally. It probably goes without saying that I am dismayed at the Conservative-led County Council’s decisions to stop many front-line services (but I’ll say it anyway). It’s preposterous to propose that our library can be run just as effectively by volunteers as by trained librarians, and it’s short-sighted to make budget savings by cutting a service that promotes literacy, research and community cohesion, all of which are of longer-term benefit to individuals and the larger society. If you cut, say, 10% of management costs or staffing levels when times are tough, it’s pretty easy to ramp them back up when things improve. A closed library will never re-open.
Yes, the government cut the county’s funding, therefore the council had to make savings. But the council’s job is to protect front-line services and to find the savings in other places. The Liberal Democrat-led Vale of White Horse Council has done exactly that: frozen the council tax, which resulted in a net loss to the district coffers (due to government’s cuts), and made savings through merged management and services with other councils, all to preserve front-line services. You won’t find a Lib-Dem-led council anywhere that has closed libraries.
If elected, I’d propose we do three things to ensure our library stays open:
1. Work with residents to plan and implement a strategy of pressure to save our library services. Your results so far have demonstrated that applying pressure is effective. (Well done, by the way!)
2. Work with others to find alternative funding strategies for libraries. As a new candidate, I’m not completely familiar with how influence works between councils, and how a councillor in the Vale can influence the County Council. But I see other counties doing it differently and getting a better result.
3. Fight to get the county to quantify the costs and benefits of a well-run library system. A systematic approach to this would benefit the library battle, but also might provide a proving ground for techniques to quantify other services that aren’t intended to be run for profit.
How would you like to see your councillor support the fight to keep the library?
You ask: If elected, what would I do to ensure that proposed redevelopment of Botley shopping precinct includes provision of space to house the library, that is at least as big as the existing facilities (and preferably larger)?
The Vale councillors would seem to be well-placed to ensure our library is included in the redevelopment plans, as Abingdon have done with their town centre redevelopment. Again, since I’m a new candidate, I have a lot to learn about how decisions are made: What sort of research is undertaken into options, and what qualifying criteria are used to define “success”?
Recent rumblings have led me to think that the process of decision-making about the redevelopment is well under way. But I am on the outside of this at the moment, and your organisation probably knows more about it than I do. I’ve seen no information, no notices of consultation, no overview of the overall objectives of such a redevelopment.
At the moment, I see a few things lacking:
1. Communication from the Vale to the residents
2. Opportunity for input from the community as to what is wanted and needed
3. Visibility into what options are being considered and what and how decisions are being made
If elected, I will do what I can to improve on that.
What ideas do you and the supporters of your campaign have about what I could do as a Vale councillor to ensure a library is included in the redevelopment plan?
Thanks for this opportunity. I'd be interested to hear back from anyone with ideas.
From: Grant Nightingale (email@example.com) Sent: 27 April 2011 20:49:11 To: Save Botley Library Campaign (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Thank you for your letter of 15 April (attached), and please accept my apologies for
the delay in answering. In answer:
I agree with Save Botley Library's key aims, to keep the library under
council control, and managed by trained librarians. I would also
consider innovations which do not conflict with these aims. I would be
supportive of community-based or social-entrepreneurial approaches to
limited additional funding. Oxfordshire Green Party County Councillors have
already proposed an amendment to the County Council's budget which would provide the
full amount needed to keep all Oxfordshire libraries open. They also wish to
help create Friends groups in each community and recommend an annual festival
with Read-ins, children’s activities and fund-raising.
Regarding the redevelopment of Botley shopping precinct, I believe the Library
should be retained on site, and maintained during the development. I
would lobby the Vale and developers to ensure a suitable home for the
Many thanks for your interest