On Friday morning, Coun. Steve Charmley, sitting in splendid isolation at Shirehall, decided that in spite of massive public opposition Church Stretton Public Library would be moved from its town-centre location to Church Stretton School, on the outskirts of the town.
This was despite months of campaigning and lobbying by supporters of the Library, which resulted in an 1,100-signature petition against the proposal, a proposal which was also rejected by 82% of those who responded to the Council’s “consultation” document.
In thus ignoring the results of their own “consultation” the Council have apparently shown that the whole consultation exercise was a sham, or perhaps more succinctly, that consultations are only valid when they give the right result. The fact that, even after reading all the Council’s arguments in favour of the proposal, it was still rejected by 82% of respondents demonstrates that the Council had failed to make a convincing case – yet nevertheless, they ignored this overwhelming opposition and approved the proposal.
The Library Support Group have vowed to fight on and immediately issued the following Press Release:
Shropshire Council reveals its total rejection of democratic principles and its total disregard for local opinion as one councillor decides that the library will relocate to the school
Today at 10am in a room in Shirehall one councillor decided to close our library in its current building and transfer it to a totally unaccountable private business (the Academy) on Shrewsbury Road.
For four months the Church Stretton Library Support Group has worked very hard indeed to argue the case for keeping the library where it is. This work involved very careful scrutiny of the Council’s case for relocation and at every turn has identified how the relocation will damage community life in Church Stretton and make life for older people and those with mobility difficulties very difficult indeed.
At every step of the way we talked to local residents and library users and the views of Church Stretton residents and voters has overwhelmingly been supportive of keeping the library where it is. The level of support for keeping the library where it is was reflected in the 1100 strong signatures on our petition, the 203 people who came to our public meeting and the response to the Council’s consultation itself.
81.85% of those replying to the consultation want to keep the library where it is and oppose the relocation to the school.
The failure of the Council to accept this huge expression of democratic opinion is a staggering betrayal of over 100 years of representative democracy. The Council does not care about local people and their views and has pressed on with its own “commissioning agenda” which means getting rid of public services and handing them over to anyone who will take them even if it is an unaccountable private business.
The residents of Church Stretton have been very badly served by this truly defective Council
Commenting on the decision to relocate the library, Felicity Thomas, spokesperson for the library support group said:
“The last four months of discussion around the future of our library have revealed that our Council is fundamentally not fit for purpose and needs to be put in special measures. Its staggering incompetence in answering questions, its arrogant dismissal of massive public opinion, its failure to take account of the results of its own consultation and its inability to work with us to develop new ways of running a public library all point to a breakdown of local representative democracy. It is clear that our councillors do not care one jot for local people and are determined to press on in a top-down, autocratic, arrogant manner. Residents and voters will not forget this betrayal.”
Felicity went on to say
“We do not accept this decision. The fight to keep our library where it is will continue and there are avenues we can pursue to fight the decision and even at this late stage we ask the Council to reconsider and work with us to produce a solution based on an equal partnership between the Council and local residents”