Lobby Your Councillor!

Following the result of the Town Council’s Community Survey, which showed that 84% of respondents were willing to pay a small rise in Council Tax in order to keep the Library in its present position in the town centre, the Library Support Group has sent the following letter to all members of the Church Stretton Town Council.

Church Stretton Library Support Group Ltd

Dear Councillor,

The Church Stretton Library Support Group Ltd (CSLSG Ltd) would like to thank the Town Council for its survey of local opinion on “at risk” services and willingness to contribute to the costs of retaining services through an increased precept. The results for both the library and the swimming pool reveal a strong level of support for these services.

The 30% response rate was excellent and much better than that achieved by many Council consultations elsewhere in England. It is also statistically significant as your own consultant reported and it provides a very firm basis for Town Council action, should the Council wish to base its decisions on the wishes of residents.

We recognise that Shropshire Council is the main decision taker in the case of the library and we share the Town Council’s concerns about the demands made on its time, resources and budgets brought about by Shropshire Council budget cuts.   We understand that budget setting and dealing with services at risk in the case of the library is a difficult matter for the Town Council to deal with at this time. This is a national as well as a local problem and Town and Parish Councils in Shropshire and elsewhere are demonstrating that they will do what they can to take on services at risk and to deliver outcomes that local residents have asked for. This includes libraries and Shropshire Council has already transferred 3 libraries to Town Councils.

The CSLSG Ltd has been working very hard for 22 months to “keep the library where it is” and the residents have responded to your survey with an 84% approval for this objective.   We have produced a fully costed and detailed business plan for this option and this has been made available to the Town Council and was discussed in detail with residents at a drop in session in the Silvester Horne on 19th July this year. The business plan suggests that a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) is set up and takes on the responsibility for running the library. It also suggests that the Town Council takes on the responsibility for employing the staff on current terms and conditions and the survey results show that residents are willing to pay an increased precept to cover this cost.

Our proposal is based on our business plan, which in turn is based on Shropshire Council’s own financial data. Shropshire Council has provided some additional financial data summarised in the Financial Appendix to this letter. The additional financial data makes it clear that in the financial year 2017/18 there would be no need for the Town Council to make a financial contribution to running the library. Shropshire Council has committed enough funds to cover staff related costs and the CIO would cover the other costs.

  Our own calculations on Shropshire Council financial data show that an increased precept of 25 pence per household (not per person) per week will be enough to cover the employment costs related to library staff (E&OE). All other costs will be met by the CIO. This will include running the present in-house VIC as well as the library.

  We acknowledge that the Town Council now has some important decisions to make and the time scale for these decisions will impinge on budget setting decisions but if the detailed proposal from the CSLSG Ltd is to go forward it must have a resolution from the Town Council supporting the business plan, the employment of the staff and the CIO.   We cannot meet Shropshire Council’s deadline for an expression of interest (16.01. 2017) without this resolution and if we miss that deadline the proposal we have made is redundant and the opportunity to deliver the result requested by residents in your survey is missed. We fully appreciate your time scale difficulties and they also apply to us but we ask that this resolution is put to a Council meeting before mid-November. This may necessitate a special Council meeting but that is for Councillors to decide.

We are sure that Town Councillors will want to take full account of the wishes expressed by residents in the recent survey and we have suggested how this could be done. We are also sure that the Town Council will wish to communicate its views on the future of our library to Shropshire Council well in advance of the 16.01.2017 deadline.

Taking all these factors into account we ask that the Town Council hold a meeting to consider a resolution supporting our business plan and the formation of the CIO and then communicate the result of that meeting to Shropshire Council. The final decision will be made by Shropshire Council but we are confident that the Town Council will want to make its views as clear as possible and will want to communicate to residents how it will use the survey results to shape its views.

We are happy to meet with councillors to discuss this in more detail.

If you have any questions or wish to reply, please contact the Company Secretary at the address below or by e-mail.

Yours sincerely,

 

As the letter makes clear, we are now at a very crucial stage in our campaign. The CSLSGL have put forward a fully costed business plan which forms the basis of our proposed Expression of Interest to Shropshire Council, for a Charitable Incorporated Organisation to take over the running of the Library. However, the Town Council’s support for the business plan is essential if the Expression of Interest is to go forward. Without the support of the Town Council, we cannot take our plans forward .and the future for the Library in its current location will again be thrown into uncertainty.

We need the help of all the Library supporters to lobby their Town Councillor to support the business plan and the formation of a CIO in order to keep the Library in its present location at the heart of the town. Attached is a document listing the address and phone number of all members of the Town Council.

local-councillors

Their e-mail addresses have not been supplied on the Council’s website, but an e-mail to the council offices:

secretary@churchstretton-tc.gov.uk

and headed “For The Attention Of Coun…….” would get through to them.

Please write to, phone, or e-mail your local councillor(s) entreating them to make the decision to support the business plan. Time is short. There is a Town Council meeting on the 18th October and Councillors need to know the strength of feeling in the town before this meeting.

84% of those who responded to the Council’s own survey supported a small rise in Council Tax to keep the Library in the town. All it requires now is for the Council to keep faith with the wishes of the residents.

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