Park Library campaign success

Faced with the prospect of an end to funding for Park Library, Parks & East Walcot Community Forum called a meeting to discuss the situation. The individuals and organisations that attended agreed to campaign for the Council to maintain Park Library as part of its core service. We managed to raise 1,200 signatures and were able to speak to a full council meeting in support of this demand.

The council tried to press us into discussing a community group or some other organisation taking over the running of the Library. We refused to do this since it would have given the signal to the council that we had accepted that they were going to end financial support. We said that we would concentrate on pressing them to include Park Library in the core service. Unless we had stood our ground on this then it’s unlikely that the council would have amended their proposal to include Park Library.

The council did agree to include Park in the core service but only to fund staffing for 15 hours a week. We refused to accept this. It would have meant a considerable reduction in the service. We therefore did the only thing we could do, in the circumstances, press the new shadow parish council to fund 22 additional hours so that Park Library would be open for 37 hours a week. We have succeeded in this with the support of the shadow parish councillors.

Park Library is one of the few hubs of the community. It provides a library service, a meeting place for various groups, unemployed people with IT equipment can carry out their job search which the DWP demands. It is used by children to do their homework after school. Its loss would have been disastrous for the community. Our success in maintaining the service shows that with a collective effort and steely determination that our community can defend its interests and preserve key services.

Given the anti-democratic methods of the administration which runs the town, too often we hear people saying, “it’s a waste of time, they will do what they want to do anyway”. There is a germ of truth in this, though it can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Without a campaign to save Park Library it would probably have closed. As a society we suffer from the virus of resignation, of a sense of powerlessness. To remain silent in the face of injustice simply means that the anti-democratic regime which runs the town will point to the absence of a response as a reflection of support from the ‘silent majority’. But if you don’t speak out against injustice, if you don’t fight against it, then you can have no real complaint. Sometimes in this country if feels as if the biggest political party is the Whining Party.

Yet the success in saving Park Library surely is a pointer to the possibilities when people come together to campaign against an assault on their services. The more people get involved then the stronger we can be. If we don’t fight for our own interests then we cannot expect anybody else to. To find out about Parks & East Walcot Community Forum email me at martin.wicks@btinternet.com or ring 07786 394593.

Martin Wicks

Secretary, Parks & East Walcot Community Forum

Afterword on the new parishes

Keeping Park Library open comes at an extra cost for us; a cost worth paying. The Central Swindon South Parish is paying to buy in 22 staffed hours from Swindon Borough Council, so that Park will be staffed for 37 hours a week. This will be paid from the ‘precept’ for the new ‘parish’. This was the only way that we could prevent a considerable reduction in the service. However, an injustice has certainly been committed by the ruling administration at SBC. They have imposed these new parishes against the wishes of local people and without any democratic mandate whatsoever.

When the idea was first floated I asked a question at a council meeting. In the light of their ending providing some services which would henceforth be provided by new parishes would they cut the council tax in proportion to the cost of the services they would no longer fund? No, they said. The council ‘could not afford it’. Yet what other organisation could get away with charging you for services which they did not provide? If such a thing isn’t illegal it certainly should be. It is politically and morally repugnant. This administration is fleecing council tax payers.

Park Library new opening hours from April 5th

Monday

10.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m.

Tuesday

11.00 a.m. to 3.00 p.m.

Wednesday

11.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m.

Thursday

10.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m.

Friday

11.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m.

Saturday

10.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m.

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