Today was a sad day. We learned that, despite council tax increases, our local library – as well as six others in the county – is to close. For the last few months, I’ve been campaigning with a group of like-minded school parents to keep it open.
We’ve worked really hard petitioning, raising awareness and encouraging people to complete the council’s consultation. We were there for today’s debate and subsequent verdict too.
Members of the public including one of my fellow campaigners and a child from the local primary school spoke eloquently and persuasively.
The speeches by those seeking to close the libraries were brief and blustered. Their arguments were flimsy, repetitive and failed to fully acknowledge the views of those most affected by the cuts.
I said ‘subsequent verdict’ but, in reality, it feels like the decision was a foregone conclusion. Despite the council’s protestations to the contrary, the consultation document was very misleading.
It wasn’t written in plain English and was full of leading questions. Many of the people we spoke to during the consultation period didn’t understand it.
In addition, the decision could have gone to full council. Instead, it went to the council’s cabinet. This consists of seven Tories and nobody else. Given their obsession with cutting public resources, this didn’t seem very fair.
And, although today was officially decision time, a new council budget had already been approved – with funding for libraries removed. If that isn’t a foregone conclusion then I don’t know what is.
I’m angry and upset that the council has ignored so many people. Essentially, we may as well have addressed our views to a brick wall. The savings the council will make by closing our library and six others are negligible, but the negative impact on communities is immeasurable.
When prompted to give their decision, all of the cabinet members agreed without batting an eyelid. There was much self-congratulation throughout the three-hour meeting and the chair of the cabinet even gave us his attempt at a comical shrug when the verdict was delivered.
It was an ill-judged act of flippancy on his part, but I suppose it was consistent with the council’s handling of the entire process.
I always like to try and find a positive in everything, but this is hard. The only thing I can think of for now is those of us who campaigned – as well as everyone who showed their support throughout, of course – have done a good thing.
We have stood up for what we believe in. In doing so, we have taught our children a valuable lesson. Clearly, our efforts have been in vain but I’m proud of what we’ve achieved by leading the fight to save our library.
I really don’t know where we go from here. I’m not sure if there’s even anything we can do, but I still want to try. Maybe we’ll suffer defeat again, but I, for one, am not ready to give up the fight just yet.