Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Ponds, Rivers and Poultry

There's some concern about plans to put up intensive chicken sheds across the river just outside Clyro, so this would seem to be a good time to talk about the implications.

There's going to be an open meeting on 29th October, from 10am to 3.30pm, at Llanigon Village Hall, to discuss the impact of intensive poultry production in Powys on our freshwater ecosystems. It's being organised by the Brecon and Radnor Branch of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales. The cost includes refreshment and a buffet lunch, and will be £5 for CPRW members and £7.50 for non-members, to be paid at the door.
They have invited Professor Steve Ormerod from Cardiff University, who is also the Chair of the RSPB Council and a leading expert in freshwater ecosystems. He'll be speaking in the morning along with Richard Ninnes from Natural Resources Wales, Julian Jones from Radnorshire Wildlife Trust and Kate Adams from the Wye and Usk Foundation.
In the afternoon, the speakers are Peter Powell of Severn Rivers Trust, Barbara Brown of OPAL Open Air Laboratories and Viv Green of the Countryside Restoration Trust.
So it sounds as if there will be a lot of very knowledgeable people there!

Monday, 24 October 2016

More on the Library

The situation with the Library seems to be moving quickly. Here's what James Gibson-Watt had to say on Facebook on the 21st October.

"To put it mildly it looks as though negotiations between Hay Town Council and Powys County Council over the future of Hay Library have not gone well. There is now the very real prospect of Powys CC publishing a statutory notice of its intention to close the library, unless Hay Town Council agrees to take on the running of it and fund half the annual costs by 31st October. This is akin to 'holding a gun to the head' of the Town Council and I and my council group believe the County Council's Cabinet is quite wrong to proceed in this way in Hay and also a number of other towns across Powys. There are a host of unanswered questions still to resolve, e.g. whether Town Councils can legally fund a statutory public facility to this extent and why the 50% burden should fall solely on Hay council taxpayers, since 2/3 of Hay Library users live outside Hay, many of them in England! If a Notice of Closure is issued by Powys CC a period of public consultation will follow. It is vital that as many people as possible respond to that consultation to show their support for Hay library. Public pressure worked well to help save Gwernyfed High School. Let's do it again for Hay Library. The Town of Books without a library? Ridiculous."

Meanwhile, Francoise Verger sent a letter to the Brecon and Radnor, also on the subject of the Library, but when they printed it, they left off the postscript. Here is the letter in full:

"Libraries protected by law

SO "the clock is ticking for a number of small libraries across Powys" which are threatened with closure (Letters, October 12).
Powys and other councils would be well advised to read 'Public Library and Other Stories', by the writer Ali Smith.
On page 42, it is indicated that "the importance of libraries was recognised by the Public Libraries Act 1850 and affirmed by the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964". These laws clearly mean that public libraries are a statutory service. Therefore councils have a legal duty to provide them.
On the jacket of Ali Smith's book, a quotation by Doris Lessing (Nobel Prize in literature 2007) reminds us that the library "is the most democratic of institutions".

PS This book was published in 2015 and found on the shelves of the Hay-on-Wye library."

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Day of the Dead

I'm easily confused!
There are TWO Day of the Dead celebrations this year. The first is on Friday 28th October at the Old Electric Shop, which will be a sit down feast of Mexican food, with cocktails and music. Tickets are £25, to include a drink on arrival.
And then on 4th November, at the Castle, there's another Day of the Dead celebration, with music, food, face painting and tequila! This one is organised by the Chamber of Commerce and is raising money for the Christmas Lights. The cost of the evening is £8.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Save Hay Library - Who to Contact

The new group HOWL (Hay-On-Wye Library - for the HOWLs of protest!) has shared the email of the county councillor responsible for library provision in Powys.
It is cllr.graham.brown@powys.gov.uk
and his address is:
Councillor Graham Brown, Deputy Leader/Cabinet Portfolio Holder, Member Support, Powys County Hall, Spa Road East, Llandrindod Wells, Powys LD1 5LG

He's the one to write to with any comments, for Hay and any of the other libraries under threat.
And it's probably best to keep copies of any communications, so they can be used again in the official consultation process.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Remembering Aberfan

Today is the 50th anniversary of the disaster.

picture taken from the Landslide blog, which has been posting about the disaster all this week.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Saving Hay Library - Live on Radio Wales!

At work, I'm often the first person to pick up the phone when it rings - and this morning I got a BBC researcher for the Jason Mohammed programme on Radio Wales, who was looking for a view from one of the bookshops on the threat to Hay Library.
So I agreed to speak, and was connected to the programme, where I could hear Fiona Howard, the Mayor, giving an extremely good defence of the library service, and why the Town Council couldn't step up to fund it. I hope I added something useful to what she said - to be honest, I was too nervous to remember what I said (though I think I sounded calm and fairly articulate at the time)!

Meanwhile, Gareth Ratcliffe has been questioning the County Council, and got a reply, which he put up on his Facebook page. Here it is:

"With regard to Hay Library, the intention is to move the library onto the new primary school site when it is built next year, which will reduce the building related costs, and we continue to work with the Schools Service on this. At the same time, we have been having discussions with town councils and others across the county, with a view to creating local partnership arrangements which would fund at least 50% of the controllable running costs of the local library. Two alternatives which we have been exploring are community delivery (where another organisation takes on the running of the local library with our support and 45% grant funding to them over a 5 year period), or a model where the library service continues to run the service as is, with a 50% contribution from a town council or other sources. We remain open to other proposals as well.
As yet, we have been unable to conclude any agreement in Hay, not least because so many of the library customers are from outside of the town, which understandably, makes the town council reluctant to pay for a service for others.
Powys County Council's Cabinet have given us the deadline of 31st October to conclude our discussions over the 2 alternatives outlined above, after which they will be withdrawn. The only option remaining for us then in Hay will be to reduce opening hours in order to make the running costs fit the remaining 50% of the budget from 1st April next. As I am sure you know, Hay Festival have been very generously fundraising for the library for the last 2 years, preventing the 20% reduction in hours which was introduced across all Powys libraries from April 2015, and we are extremely grateful to them for their support, which was agreed for a 2 year period.
This is a basic outline of the current position, and I am very happy to meet with you to discuss further, if that would help."

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Save Hay Library

Yesterday, I posted a short video of the protests outside Hereford Shire Hall, to show what's happening with libraries on the English side of the border.
Here's what it looked like in Hay Library earlier on Monday evening:

I was sitting on the floor underneath the tree in the corner.

The meeting was called by Anita Wright, who felt strongly enough to do something when she heard about the plans of Powys County Council. She is now part of the steering group of the campaign to save the library (which may be called Friends of Hay Library, or possibly HOWL - I'm not sure yet). She'd invited a member of the Friends of Crickhowell Library to talk about what they'd been doing to save their library. They were set up well in advance of Powys County Council's plans, so they had time to plan what they could do about them. We have something like two weeks before the County Council intends to run a consultation on closing the library, one of eleven libraries around the county (which will leave Powys with six libraries).

Fiona Howard was at the meeting, from the Town Council, and she told the meeting how Hay had got together with eight other local councils to form a united opposition to the County Council. Previously, the County Council have been trying to pick the libraries off one by one.
Fiona Howard also said that the County Council want Hay Council to take over the running of the library, as they have already done with the toilets and the sports pavilion - but they need to find £18,000 a year to run it. In order to do that, Fiona said, they would have to raise the precept (Hay's portion of the Council Tax) by 44% - which is illegal.

At Crickhowell, they have been fund raising for small things for the library, and they've also been drumming up support for the library, and putting on events in the library. They've also been forging links with the local primary school and, most importantly, the secondary school, which is due to take over the running of Crickhowell library shortly, bearing 50% of the costs. They are also just about the only local library in the county which has produced a business plan, which has been accepted by the County Council.

There have been plans in Hay to move the library to the new school building - but building work hasn't started yet, and that solution to the problem is a long way off. In the meantime, it's important to keep the library open - once it closes, it's gone forever.

However, there is a legal requirement for county councils to provide a comprehensive library service, in the 1964 Public Libraries Act. However, the wording is vague, so it's open to interpretation just what a comprehensive service means in practice. In Wales, there is an extra layer of legislation on Library Standards, which can be found on the Welsh Assembly website under Libraries Making a Difference. They have plans for a library card that would work in every library in Wales, for instance, and to streamline the administration across Wales instead of duplicating effort in each county. Where library use is declining in England, in Wales library use is increasing.
But again, this is some way in the future, and consultations on the future of the libraries will begin on October 31st.

The feeling of the meeting was that a library is far more than just a room with books in it - it was emphasised that what is needed is a continuation of the library service, which means the retention of trained librarians like Jayne in Hay. It's not something that volunteers can duplicate. It was also the feeling of the meeting that cutting the hours that the library is open means that large sections of the public will be unable to access the library services - anyone who has a full time job, for instance, if the library no longer opens in the evenings. At the moment, Hay Library is well used, with over 20,000 books loaned last year.
Hay Library also has a unique connection to the Hay Festival, with the annual Library Lecture, and the Festival has raised money to support the library in the last couple of years. However, local fund raising will not be anything like enough to run the library.

For the future, the Friends of Hay Library need a vision of what the library can be - it's not enough just to defend what we have. So it would be good to have a new room built onto the library for meetings and consultations, and then local groups would be able to meet at the library (such as some of the groups who used to meet in the Swan until the new management decided they didn't want that to continue).

So the new campaigning group will be doing something like the group campaigning to save Gwernyfed School did - pointing out where the County Council are failing in their statutory duties to provide a library service, and where they are failing the Welsh Library Standards, as well as pointing out the negative effects that the closure of the library will have on the local residents - all those people who rely on the library to use a computer, for instance, as well as school children (I needed my local library as a child - there was no way my parents could have kept up with my reading habits without it). There is, in Powys, no schools library service, so Hay Library is the provision for school children in the area. And running a library with volunteers and no paid staff does not meet the Library Standards.

As Hay is on the border, some of the people who use Hay Library actually come from Herefordshire - Cusop and Clifford, for instance. About 30% of library users live in Hay, the other 70% being from surrounding villages - and those community councils need to be involved in the fight to keep the library open too.

The meeting ended with the formation of a steering group, and just about everybody at the meeting signing up to recieve emails about the progress of the campaign and what they can do to help.

The contact email is anitawright@breathe.com

As soon as I know the details, I'll publicise the people in the County Council to write letters to, but Gareth Ratcliffe warned that the County Council will discount letters that are sent outside the formal consultation process, so people will think they have voiced their views, only to find they were not taken into account. He recommended keeping copies of letters and sending them again for the official consultations.