Oxfordshire Communists played an active part in the campaign to thwart the Council’s plans to shut many of Oxfordshire’s public libraries. You can read here, detailed proposals and a campaign strategy outlined by the local CP.

Naturally we welcomed the County Council’s retreat and in this one respect we welcome the County Council’s new proposals: that they claim to keep open every one of Oxfordshire’s 43 public libraries.
But we are clear the County Council has not really listened to the people of Oxfordshire. The library cuts have not been abandoned or even reduced: they have simply been repackaged.
The County Council itself acknowledges the three things the public values most about libraries are the quality of: the stock, the buildings and the staff.
The new consultation paper tells us nothing about any of these things. It only tells us all the 43 existing libraries are expected to stay open. To achieve the cuts we must therefore assume the County Council wants to run down all of these three in the belief that no one will notice and complain so long as no library actually shuts.
The plain fact is the County Council has a duty under the 1964 Wilson Government’s Public Libraries and Museums Act to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service.
In its consultation paper the County Council repeats the expression “comprehensive and efficient library service” as if repeating this phrase is supposed to deceive the reader that the proposals actually meet the County Council’s legal obligations.
The County Council admits that the 1964 Act outlines four key areas that a comprehensive library service must deliver:
Securing and keeping a wide range of free resources, including books and other printed matter, sound recordings, films and other materials, to browse and borrow in sufficient number, range and quality
Meet the general requirements (and any special requirements) of both adults and children living, working or studying in the local area
Free independent information and advice
Encouraging the use and participation of the service, for example, through clear and easy ways to join, access, shape and influence the service.
The County Council then states that the Act does not say exactly what is to be meant by any of these requirements and proceeds almost completely to ignore them in the rest of its paper.
We suspect the County Council’s proposals may put it on the wrong side of the law but the paper never tells us what the County Council thinks would represent a comprehensive and efficient library service for Oxfordshire, nor does it tell us what kind of library service it plans to give us: it merely tells us some kind of service will be available from all the 43 existing buildings.
By no stretch of the imagination is this a meaningful consultation on “a future library service for Oxfordshire” as the County Council claims.

Oxfordshire Communists played an active part in the campaign to thwart the Council’s plans to shut many of Oxfordshire’s public libraries. You can read here, detailed proposals and a campaign strategy outlined by the local CP.

Naturally we welcomed the County Council’s retreat and in this one respect we welcome the County Council’s new proposals: that they claim to keep open every one of Oxfordshire’s 43 public libraries.
But we are clear the County Council has not really listened to the people of Oxfordshire. The library cuts have not been abandoned or even reduced: they have simply been repackaged.
The County Council itself acknowledges the three things the public values most about libraries are the quality of: the stock, the buildings and the staff.
The new consultation paper tells us nothing about any of these things. It only tells us all the 43 existing libraries are expected to stay open. To achieve the cuts we must therefore assume the County Council wants to run down all of these three in the belief that no one will notice and complain so long as no library actually shuts.
The plain fact is the County Council has a duty under the 1964 Wilson Government’s Public Libraries and Museums Act to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service.
In its consultation paper the County Council repeats the expression “comprehensive and efficient library service” as if repeating this phrase is supposed to deceive the reader that the proposals actually meet the County Council’s legal obligations.
The County Council admits that the 1964 Act outlines four key areas that a comprehensive library service must deliver:
Securing and keeping a wide range of free resources, including books and other printed matter, sound recordings, films and other materials, to browse and borrow in sufficient number, range and quality
Meet the general requirements (and any special requirements) of both adults and children living, working or studying in the local area
Free independent information and advice
Encouraging the use and participation of the service, for example, through clear and easy ways to join, access, shape and influence the service.
The County Council then states that the Act does not say exactly what is to be meant by any of these requirements and proceeds almost completely to ignore them in the rest of its paper.
We suspect the County Council’s proposals may put it on the wrong side of the law but the paper never tells us what the County Council thinks would represent a comprehensive and efficient library service for Oxfordshire, nor does it tell us what kind of library service it plans to give us: it merely tells us some kind of service will be available from all the 43 existing buildings.
By no stretch of the imagination is this a meaningful consultation on “a future library service for Oxfordshire” as the County Council claims.

National Context

The Oxfordshire library cuts are not unique. Many other library authorities are trying to make cuts.
Nationally, The Bookseller launched a Fight For Libraries campaign in January 2011 which opposes what it calls “the arbitrary, disproportionate and wantonly destructive nature of the cuts to the national library service now underway.”The campaign has five demands:
Support both the letter and the spirit of the 1964 Public Libraries Act, which stipulates that local authorities have a duty to maintain a comprehensive and efficient library service for all their residents.
Support library users in all their various campaigns to defend local libraries, including the call for a national public enquiry into the library service by Steve Ross.
Libraries should not be singled out for cuts disproportionate to the budget cuts being made in their local authority. Indeed, given their special importance to users at times of economic difficulty, they deserve protection. 
Council chiefs should look at their own senior salaries and back office costs before cutting professional librarian posts or closing libraries.
Decisive leadership from the Government to support, preserve and improve library services – and a clear strategy to achieve that.
This followed the launching by the Coalition Government of its Future Libraries programme in August 2010. 51 proposals were submitted involving over 100 local authorities.
The Oxfordshire and Kent joint proposal was one of the ten chosen and the only one of those that didn’t directly aim to deliver what the programme calls “savings”.

The County Council Proposals

The output from the Oxfordshire and Kent project, for which the Coalition Government gave £10,000 support, was a system for harnessing shopping data which the County Council has used to help it put its existing libraries into five groups and then assign them three different outcomes:
22 fully staffed core libraries
5 community plus libraries intended to have a mix of ⅔ staff and ⅓ volunteers
16 community libraries intended to have a mix of ⅓ staff and ⅔ volunteers.
The County Council does not present any evidence that the right number of volunteers exist with the right skills to run the 21 libraries from which it intends to withdraw full support.
The County Council says the only library assigned to the core group on grounds it was necessary to ensure service to a deprived community is Berinsfield.
Oxfordshire Communists took part in the squatting campaign which led to the building of a new community on the disused base at Berinsfield and, of course, welcome the fact that the particular needs of Berinsfield have been acknowledged for once.
The County Council does not say in its consultation paper which Oxfordshire residents would lose out under its proposals, but this is made perfectly clear elsewhere on its website:
“the main groups affected are children and adults who are less mobile for whatever reason (e.g. older people, people without their own transport, people with disabilities). These groups would be less well served than currently, as would some rural communities and Oxford city residents, workers and students who do not have cause to travel regularly to the city centre.”
We cannot think of a clearer statement of reasons for rejecting the proposals. With its own words the County Council admits its proposals deny these groups fair access to a comprehensive library service.
 

What kind of Council Service should we have?

We support Unison’s call for:
adequate resources and funding for library services, staff and premises
empowerment of staff and communities to shape services together
partnership working between libraries and councils across the UK to share information and good practice
responsiveness to library users from all backgrounds
provision of staff training and professional development.
 
We call for the County Council to meet its statutory obligations and provide the people of Oxfordshire with a comprehensive and efficient library service by investing in its stock, improving its library buildings and increasing the number of professional library staff it employs.
 

Oxfordshire communist proposals

Oxfordshire Communist Party argues these cuts are the consequence of the economic and financial crisis of capitalism in this country, and are intended to make hard working people and families pay for this crisis, whilst increasing the wealth and income of the rich and powerful elite who caused this crisis in the first place.
We argue all these cuts are completely unnecessary and that there is a clear, robust and dependable alternative, including as set out in the People’s Charter, which through democratic public ownership, investment, growth and jobs would tackle this crisis, clear the debt, but in the interests of the great majority of people who have to work hard for a living, and help build a sound and sustainable future for today’s and succeeding generations.
It is the aim and ambition of every working class woman and man to work hard, to educate themselves and their families as well as possible, to make the most of their opportunities, to do as well as they possibly can, and to ensure their children and their grand children are better off than themselves.
We owe it to ourselves, our children and our grandchildren to now make a stand, to reject the argument they should have less opportunity than we have, to be less educated than we are, to be less healthy than we are and to die earlier than we will.
We call on the people of Oxfordshire to campaign to reject all cuts including to library services, against all local and national spending cuts, and instead to join together to fight for a People’s Britain which is run in the interests and benefit for the great majority of working people, a Britain in which public services are cherished, valued, well-resourced, democratised, designed and shaped around the needs of local communities and individuals, and which actively contribute to a modern, humane and democratic 21st Century vision of civilised society. 
 

References

Oxfordshire County Council, 2011. Library Service Consultation, page 6
Oxfordshire County Council, 2011. Library Service Consultation, page 5
 
Oxfordshire County Council, 2011. Social and Community Services – Community Services Business Strategy 2011/12-2014/15
Unison, 2008. Taking stock: the future of our public library service.