NO REPRIEVE FOR HAWARDEN,MANCOT OR QUEENSFERRY LIBRARIES. June 2015.

The Labour Cabinet’s decision to move all three libraries into Deeside Leisure Centre was “called – in” by a small band of intrepid cllrs. on 8th June. We were asking the scrutiny committee who made the recommendation to Cabinet to reconsider as its wildly unpopular & won’t work. By presenting unassailable facts as to why the scheme would fail, we hoped that at least to give the full council the chance of debating this major change. Hawarden Cllr Carver ripped into the alleged consultation exercise which was neither open nor fair. Cllr Dave Mackie proved the move to the Leisure Centre failed the test of the statutory need to provide a library within 2.5miles to match so many thousands per community. Hawarden & Mancot totally failed this requirement. Brave Cllr Glenys Diskin, Labour herself; pleaded for her Mancot library to be spared & her own party’s decision overturned.

My presentation clearly infuriated Cllr Ian Dunbar who loudly announced that a senior councillor’s view of the Leisure Centre was “abysmal.” ‘Do you mean me,” I chirped. “Fame at last”. I had only told the truth, namely the Centre needed a million’s worth of repairs. And now 4 computers against the 18 available; as there was no room for more in space set aside for the three libraries. Crazy! At a recent workshop, informing us that the bus service is under threat if Welsh Government withdraws grants next year, I was told that the Leisure Centre was a mess. Litter everywhere, doors were hanging off & the staff were invisible at times! What’s Cllr Dunbar’s response to this. We need to know.

I have asked for facts about the Leisure Centre ‘s deficit to find the truth. Bet they never arrive!

My presentation was a massive crib from a whistle blower whose inside knowledge on the current library service hit the committee hard. Much squirming! Cllr Dunbobbin demanded to know the identity of my informant. No comment. I should have asked him what he would have done had I revealed the name. More likely his anticipated reply would land him in trouble!

The whistle blower denigrated the Cabinet decision as shocking & the consultation a cruel farce. Only 2 schools had been consulted, FCC had just axed the Schools Library Service saving £189K a year & a DIY library manned by volunteers, however committed & resourceful was a very dubious proposal. Libraries need money, connection to a real library system, a constant replenishing of books & IT support & how was thieving to be controlled when the library’s unattended for up to 70 hours? The Cabinet’s idea of using Leisure Centre staff to mind the shop is certainly novel particularly if they were now invisible!

Whistle blower didn’t spare punches in the information fed to me. No wonder my spiel upset the 5 Pooh faced Labour scrutiny cllrs who looked cross. Why had the Welsh Government poured millions into the “Every child a member”, a scheme which gave year 4 pupils a library card to encourage the reading habit & trot down to their local library to be welcomed with a goody bag. Wales literacy rates are now poor & putting the local library in the Leisure Centre with its dangerous road, lack of protection from roaming youths, inadequate parking, poor back-up when the library staff goes home; will surely wreck any chance of cultivating an early life long reading habit in Wales.

Warming to the task, whistle blower stated that the Latin word for book was ‘Liber’ which also meant free. Libraries provide a safe haven for families, children, the elderly & the vulnerable – warm & welcoming places where the web can be accessed & the unemployed can update their job searches & CV’s.

Labour is in denial over who is responsible for such swingeing cuts with more to come. The Golden Triangle of Cardiff, Newport & Swansea are bloated with all the money sunk into this favoured part of Wales since 1999. Now the cupboard is bare & of course, it’s all Westminster’s fault. Nothing to do with Labour’s recklessness which broke the bank in 2007?

This Authority must take blame too. Thousands spent on consultants, is just one drain on resources as was sending Patrick Heesom to the Ombudsmans Tribunal. That cost Welsh Government £2 MILLION as they had to pay Patrick’s legal fees.

Why has £50.000 been spent on ripping out newly laid speed humps against the wishes of the local member & the community? The Cllr went away on holiday & returned to find a fate accompli! Now the battle is on to remove them!

FCC failed to bid for a substantial libraries grant & missed the crucial February deadline. The committee was not told of this possible budget saving grant at their January meeting. Who was responsible for wasting this chances of a hefty windfall? Why do we deal with sheer incompetence?

Why is there no joined up thinking over the as yet undecided fate of the Hawarden Records Office which shares this public service with the library. Asked what would happen to the building when the library was forced to close, the Leader, Cllr Shotton was unsure. Something could happen in a couple of years but what ? The new man brought in to oversee the disposal of many of Flintshire’s assets, one Ian Bancroft; clearly hasn’t been given his orders yet.

When Mr B addressed Hawarden Community Council on what assets we would take on some months ago now, we were amazed how little hard financial information he could give us. Our excellent Clerk tried valiantly to get costs & other important information we needed to make sensible decisions. Ian either wasn’t telling or he did not know! The latter no doubt! Flintshire’s systems are not geared to breaking down costs which would be normal for most businesses. Apparently, only Hawarden Community Council is making these unnecessary demands about costs. Hawarden! Strange! Seems all other Community Councils are just getting on fine without being told the price of fish.

Of course, the “Call In” failed. There will be no reprieve. The Hawarden, Mancot and Queensferry libraries are to be bunged into the Leisure Centre after all. Another nail in the coffin for under performing pupils with reading problems & another paid for community service lost.

And the fate of the Record Office? Mr Bancroft awaits his orders!

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