Statement to Open Forum 21 January 2009


which preceded the Swindon Borough Council Cabinet Meeting, 21 January 2009

All but some four councillors voted against Councillor Pajak's proposal to forego an increase in their allowances at the Full Council Meeting last week. Councillor Bluh curtly dismissed the motion as but a 'political gesture'. Had there been a majority vote in favour, politics would not have played a part and such a 'gesture', however small, would have been acclaimed.

What is astonishing to members of the public like myself, is councillors' complacency in the presence of a journalist whom they knew would write up the story in his newspaper the following day. In spite of that knowledge, they chose to show contempt for public opinion. This shows how safe they feel in the important positions which voters themselves have kindly accorded them.

Some councillors' perceived indifference to the views of voters and residents is further underlined by the Council Leader's Written Answer to my Question to Full Council last week. He gave 'sideways' answers to my queries, with little attempt to reply in a transparent manner.

One :  I asked Council whether it had consulted with the Unions on their agreement not to replace employees with volunteers and, if so, what had been the outcome. Instead of accepting the blindingly obvious that I was referring to the proposals for Old Town Library, Councillor Bluh decided to respond in vague terms.

I understand that the Unions have not been consulted about the proposals for Old Town Library and that UNISON is absolutely opposed to the staffing of Old Town Library by volunteers. They also consider it would set an unacceptable precedent. Might it be naive to have expected a straightforward answer like that ?

Two :  I referred to an assertion from Dorset that this Council is "shamefully representing" the Dorset model for volunteering in libraries. The Leader responded that this model has been mentioned only in the context of Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire and East Sussex.  In the Minutes of the final 'Friends' meeting with the Library Service on 5th December, which were approved, it was recorded :   I quote "With regard to Old Town, Councillors propose to keep the library exactly as it is, but staff it with volunteers. This has been done successfully in Dorset."  It was therefore natural, in the absence then or since to any reference to Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire or East Sussex, that the 'Friends' were misled into believing that the Dorset model was the only one on the table.

I anticipate that Councillors will say that they and the Library Service have approached me and that I have not responded in a positive manner.  Every approach by them has been to 'discuss volunteering' which is anathema to us. Our Campaign is striving to keep the library with its professional staff intact.

Continued : click on  'Next'

Any comments ?

You can contact your Ward Councillors to express your concerns.  Please
Click here
Old Town & Lawn Councillors
and then on the link bearing the Councillor's name
(top left of their Homepage)

and the Leader of the Council, Councillor Roderick Bluh :    Mail Councillor Bluh