Saturday, 4 February 2017

Library Meeting Part Three - Speak Truth to Power

(in other words - PCC has the power, and it's time for the public to hold them to account).

It was pointed out that, as the portfolio holder for libraries on Powys County Council, it is Graham Brown's job to be held accountable to the public. He is paid to do this, and he should have come to the meeting.
The PCC says (and it is true) that there is no money available - but there would be more money available for libraries and schools if the PCC didn't have to deal with legal challenges to their decisions, which then get overturned, as in the case of Gwernyfed School. HOWLS have tried to work with the PCC, and have offered various solutions, but the PCC have rejected all of them.

Libraries play a vital role in society (I think it was Kirsty Williams who said this). They are important for the democratisation of knowledge in our community - in other words, education and knowledge is available to all, not just those who are able to pay for it. More access to libraries, and the services they offer, is needed for the good of society.
The PCC has to consider the knock-on effects of closing libraries for the community.

So what kind of service does Hay need (and the wider area)? The views of the community need to be collected, and relayed to the PCC.
Which is why HOWLS needs to set itself up as a proper, official body. There were copies of their draft constitution on tables throughout the room. Once they are an official organisation, with a committee and so forth, it will be a lot harder for the PCC to ignore them.
To this end, they are holding a Members Meeting in March, in order to formally adopt the constitution. They were collecting emails and addresses of supporters at the meeting, because the committee who have been doing things up to now need help. They've put in a huge amount of work, and they need extra pairs of hands to spread the load.

A chap from Clyro stood up to speak from the back of the hall - he said that he's worked in local government, so he knows how County Councils work from the inside. He had got hold of Councillor Graham Brown's travel expenses - I didn't quite catch the figure, but it was large - if that's the sort of amount he claims for travel, no wonder his excuse was that he was "out of town" for the meeting. His travel expenses, the chap said, are the fourth highest in Powys. For comparison, he also quoted the travel expenses of the same portfolio holder for Carmarthen County Council - another big, rural area. The figure was about a quarter of Councillor Brown's. If austerity means anything, in local government, it should apply to him as well as local communities which are losing their services.
Maybe he could share a car?

The chap from Clyro went on to mention the Budget Simulator which is on the PCC website. With this, members of the public are invited to move money around between departments, to see which ones they want to support and which ones they want to cut - but there is nothing on the simulator for saving money, or moving it around, within the departments. It cost, he said, £5,000 a year, and it's useless. There's some money that could be better spent on actual services for the community.

The meeting closed with the suggestion that concerned members of the public should email Councillor Brown and make their points to him in person. His email address can be found via the PCC website.

Other useful contacts are:
Twitter - @hayhowls
Facebook - haylibrarysupporters
Email -


Anonymous said...

The most valuable things in the library go home every night – the staff.

Dafydd said...

The most valuable thing in any library is the knowledge contained between the covers of each and every book.