Saturday, 26 March 2011

Never mind the fancy cakes - hear the anger!

Fancy cakes for Friends of
Gloucestershire Libraries -
or that's what the BBC think...
(1)  Oh dear. I thought this might be the case... Somewhere on the edge of Northleach Market Square lives a bloke who works nights. Who is not happy of a Saturday morning when my bell clangs and my bellow rattles the windows... I already leave the 'Shout' until late morning, on my own account; by lunchtime it's all gone quiet. What a dilemma...

(2)  In other news... Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries are marching through London as I type. The march is against all cuts: not exactly our message, but it's feet on the street that count now.

And yes, FoGL were in that twee little clip on BBC News At Ten (Friday 25 March). As you've read elsewhere, we support the continued provision of free libraries accessible to everyone. The group includes people from all walks of life - but sadly only those of us with time and energy to spare can get on telly. Those who are grafting to keep a roof over their heads have little chance to be seen or heard; as usual... So never mind the images of Cotswold cottages and fancy cake stands, hear our worry and anger..!

See my kitchen on tv as Northleach, nearby countryside and some of the FoGLs appeared in spring sunshine on BBC News At Ten...  The pro cuts person interviewed after us had a very scant, shivering group of supporters and felt obliged to try to look popular by set dressing with purple balloons. Smells of desperation to me, but then I would say that wouldn't I?!

Half the fun of being filmed was meeting the unexpectedly tasty Mark Easton, BBC home editor, who is decidedly more delicious in person than on screen.  I suspect he wanted to take the mickey out of us but couldn't quite do so, given our serious and deep concerns... See for yourself at Mark Easton's blog (click on this link).

A busy week, then, what with re-inventing my performance work, too!

Friday, 4 February 2011

Do They Think We're Stupid, or What?!

Perhaps this should go on the new crime map..? Probably Britain’s politest pressure group, the Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries have been elbowed out of their democratic rights by Gloucestershire County Council.

In what look like bizarre breaches of county Constitution, GCC only allowed a campaign representative to address the 2 February council cabinet meeting after councillors had voted. What’s more, GCC also appears to have held back documents relating to the debate - that should have been available for public scrutiny at least five days in advance.

FoGL didn’t see a word, as they prepared their submission to the debate. They were also bracing themselves for another torrent of whispering and sniggering from Conservative councillors, as meted out on 19 January to the last FoGL representative who dared to ask questions at Shire Hall.

Ordered to be quiet
A campaign supporter who observed the 2 February debate described how the FoGL representative ‘made a very eloquent and powerful speech, which drew spontaneous, loud and prolonged applause from we spectators.’ GCC Council Leader, Mark Hawthorne ordered visitors to be quiet with the words, "This is a public meeting". Back shot the answer: "We are the public".

While the irony apparently failed to register with Coun. Hawthorne, the debate observer noted that some of the councillors looked embarrassed.

Decisions announced before 'consultation' ends
So they should. In another twist of the rules, Gloucestershire County Council is trumpeting a ‘new package’ and ‘additional money’ for libraries – formally announcing on 31 January a done deal 48 hours before the formal debate in county cabinet. The decision has also been announced before the final four Library Drop-In Consultation days and before the county’s online consultation closes on 11 February.

I told myself I was too cynical in thinking the Library Consultation looked fake and fixed. With GCC smirking in its press release that that it has ‘listened to people’s comments’ it seems I wasn’t nearly cynical enough.

Council leaders leaped to brand FoGL a “vocal minority” when the group asked for an independent review of GCC’s destructive proposals. They dismiss FoGL as ‘middle class’. Obviously many councillors (dominated by good ol’ green welly Conservatives) are unable to grasp that some people can act altruistically, on behalf of others who are less able – or too ground down with work and financial worries – to speak up for themselves.

Bus services to be slashed, too
County cabinet members insist they must be ‘more concerned about maintaining the services for Children, Vulnerable Adults, Fire and Police and Highways than Libraries’. But they choose to ignore how concurrent plans to slash bus services – already notoriously poor in rural Gloucestershire – will cut off people’s access to libraries, doctors and hospitals; let alone social or community activities that make life worth living.

Rural and urban poverty in Gloucestershire are already some of the worst in Britain. From where I stand, in the wilds of the Cotswolds - paying council tax through the nose for services being stripped away by the year - I’d say our council under the heel of our shiny new government is hellbent on making life unbearable.

And then government has the screaming cheek to start a national survey us on our state of happiness. ALL RIGHT – LET’S TELL ‘EM.

  • Some 10,600 people signed a petition - collected in December's snow - asking for less damaging cuts to library services. The petition continues: now up to more than 13,000 signatures today [4 Feb 2011]
  • Gloucestershire County Council's plans are in its Library Service Consultation - which is allegedly open until 11 February 2011, although they're making decisions NOW...  
  • Information on the campaign to save Gloucestershire Libraries from 69% cuts (26% in 2009 + 43% now proposed) is at the Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries website

Friday, 7 January 2011

Your library needs YOU

Thanks to everyone who signed the Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries petition as I lurked in the snow and ice over Christmas (!)

On 5 January I joined FoGL ( ( ) supporters to hand in to Shire Hall a 10,600 signature petition. It asks Gloucestershire County Council to review proposed 43% cuts to Gloucestershire libraries. GCC’s plan is based on an earlier ‘consultation’ with less than 1% of Gloucestershire people. Other county services will be cut by ‘only’ 28%.

Bourton on the Water library is the local library for everyone in Northleach and surrounding villages. It faces being reduced to a ‘Library Link’. It will have a tiny book stock, ‘self service’ lending, library staff on site for only three hours a week – and absolute dependence on a ‘partner’ and volunteers to keep the Library Link open at all.

Mobile and Homelink (housebound/care home) Services are to be axed.

Bourton has been my local library for 15 years. If it’s not available – and I fear GCC’s hidden plan is to close many libraries altogether, for ever – then for me it’s a 24 mile round trip (half a day on buses, and dangerous walking beside main roads) to Stow, Cirencester or Cheltenham.

We risk losing all those free or cheap library services, from DVD and games hire to magazines, children’s books and computer/internet access. Just when family budgets get so tight they squeak, we won’t be able to borrow books – just buy them....

•    Bourton Library serves surrounding communities where public transport doesn’t reach. Many of us already struggle to get to a library – what are we supposed to do without Mobile and Homelink services?

•    It’s nearly impossible to reach other libraries without a car, anyway. Lots of people around Northleach don’t have cars, or the internet, or cosy green wellie lifestyles. You just try waiting for and getting on a bus with toddlers in tow, or you’re elderly or disabled, or you’ve just got a bad back like I had all over Xmas! Nightmare!
     And even if you can drive, all the workaday and tourist traffic makes it hard to park anywhere near a main library. If you can afford the parking fees. You probably won’t be cycling the A429 Fosse Way, or the A40, much less your children… So: more driving. More wearing out of roads. More damage to our environment. Hmm…

•    If you work 9-5, could you get to a library between 9am-5pm or 10am-6pm? These are the weekday opening hours proposed for ALL Gloucestershire libraries. Or have you got time for a library visit 9am-1pm on your hectic Saturday mornings?

•    A ‘self service’ Library Link would be a high risk environment. Who will supervise safety? Who will supervise children? Who will prevent theft of stock including games and DVDs?

•    When Bourton library user numbers fall and security problems increase, probably within 2 years, I believe GCC will seize the chance to close Bourton Library for ever. 

•    Have you got the time or wealth to work unpaid? Librarians need many skills. Do you know stock management, the Dewey Decimal catalogue system, book search and ordering, and information technology? Are you excellent at customer care? Who will pay for volunteers’ training? Who will pay for volunteers’ CRB checks and how often will these be renewed?
-    By the way, GCC costings given to Parish Councils about taking on link/volunteer libraries are said to be incomplete or inaccurate.

•    Is it right for library staff to lose their jobs and then to be replaced by unpaid, unskilled volunteers?

While all county services must make savings, libraries cost only 1.46% of total GCC budget spending – yet are facing 2.3% of total cuts. This is unfair, too much and too fast.

What you can do

•    Sign the continuing petition either on paper or online at . This site updates almost daily about campaign actions and GCC responses. FoGL hopes to hold a Celebration of Libraries on Saturday 5 February.

•    Tell your family, friends and neighbours about Bourton Library and about the threats to Gloucestershire libraries in general. Involve your sports or social club. Go to council meetings! Ask questions! Be fully informed by reading GCC’s Libraries Proposal at  or call 01452 425000 to get a copy posted to you.

•    Write, phone or email your objections as a Bourton library user to Bourton Parish Council, Council Offices, 8 Victoria Street, Bourton on the Water GL54 2BT. Email .  Tel 01451 820712 Tues, Weds, Thurs 12.30-3.30pm.

•    Contact your District Councillors at Cotswold District Council.
-    For Northleach with Eastington: Mark Tufnell. Tel 01285 623888. Email:  
-    For Bourton on the Water (contact as a Bourton library user) Sheila Jeffery: tel 01451 822548, email
-    For Bourton on the Water (contact as a Bourton library user) Len Wilkins: tel 01451 821063, email . Postal addresses on the CDC website . Or phone CDC on 01285 623000.

•    Contact your Gloucestershire County Councillor – Cllr. Fiona McKenzie (Conservative). Tel 01242 890451 . Email: . Postal address from  or phone Gloucestershire County Council 01452 425000.

•    Contact your MP: Geoffrey Clifton Brown. His constituency office address is Unit 1143 Regent Court, Gloucester Business Park, Hucclecote GL3 4AD.  Tel 01452 371630. Email: .

If Bourton on the Water reduces or loses its library service, life for people in Northleach and surrounding communities will be poorer. Your children’s life chances will be damaged. PLEASE – stand up for fairer cuts. Ask Bourton Parish Council NOT to take on the expensive liability of a Library Link.

“Our libraries didn’t even close during World War 2,” a Gloucestershire senior citizen said. Shall we now submit to government measures that not even the Nazis could force upon us?

More information at:

Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries   

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Monday, 3 January 2011

Ding Dong - it's 2011

"To the citizens of Northleach, and to our visitors from around the world, the Town Crier of Northleach wishes you all a healthy, happy New Year."