Anita and Richard from HOWLS were among the audience for the Council meeting last night - and one of the councillors, Trudi, joked that she was going to lock the doors and co-opt everyone onto the council. There was, in fact, a new councillor there, but I didn't catch his name. And there was a substitute minute taker for the meeting, as Nigel the Town Clerk is unwell.
The Questions from the Public at the beginning of the meeting were all library related, and as the library was discussed later, I'll include them there. There was also a complaint about the Town Council website not being updated, which Trudi answered was due to pressure of work on the councillors - there just isn't the time....
The Transfer of Assets from Powys County Council to the Town Council rumbles on. The situation at the moment is that the PCC has agreed to everything the Town Council asked for, apart from the amount of money that will be paid to the Town Council from the car park takings. Which is kind of essential for everything else to work. So the Town Council are not repaying the loan they got from the PCC to pay for the toilets being refurbished until the issue is resolved.
Fiona Howard said something similar to her comments during the Library Meeting last week - the role of town councillors has changed enormously in the last five years, and the work load has increased enormously. This is also true for the Town Clerk, as it's part of his job to make sure that everything the Town Council does is legal. Elections are due in May, so there may be new faces around the table - but it's a lot for a new councillor to take on.
So she suggested that what we need in Hay is a Town Manager, to manage the various projects that are now the responsibility of the Town Council rather than the PCC. However, this would be difficult to fund as a long term solution. It would, possibly, work for individual projects if the role of Town Manager was included in the grant applications.
There was the suggestion that maybe Hay Town Council was trying to take on too much, as Talgarth Town Council doesn't do anything like the same amount of work that Hay does, although Talgarth is a similar size. It's true that Hay does not have a full complement of councillors, and hasn't for some time, but even if all the places were filled, it would be difficult to do everything they need to do.
And so we come to the Library.
Anita from HOWLS thanked the Town Council for their support so far, and said that her concern was not so much for the library building as for the library service. At the moment, the library is open for 23 hours a week, some of which is paid for by Hay Festival. On 1st April, the grant from Hay Festival will stop, and the PCC will reduce the hours the library is open to 6 hours a week.
That's right - 6 hours a week. Though the PCC promises that this will increase to 12 hours a week when the library moves into the new school building (when it's finally built). If a third party, such as the Town Council or a charity, were to step in to pay for the building, then the PCC would still only offer a library service of 12 hours a week.
So far, the library staff haven't been informed of any changes to their working hours, though this may be because they could be re-deployed to another library elsewhere.
HOWLS was formed with the intention of keeping the library as it is now, in the same building and open for 23 hours a week. They don't want to start fund-raising, because they would never be able to sustain it long term. And maybe they shouldn't fund raise, as the library service is a statutory requirement for the PCC to fund.
HOWLS don't want to run the library, either - it's not in their draft constitution, which will be adopted at a meeting in mid-March, though there is scope to change the terms of the constitution if they need to.
Gareth has seen Kay at County Hall (I tried to look her up on the PCC website - I think she's the Chief Librarian, but it's quite difficult to track down the names of members of the PCC on the website, and searching brought no match). Anyway, Gareth told her that 6 hours a week was unacceptable.
The Town Council would still like to take on the building, and use it when the library is closed for other groups, but the PCC could still cut the hours of the service. So the Town Council will be writing to the PCC to investigate the possibility of taking the library building on, but without committing to anything as yet. It costs £8,000 a year to run the building.