November 29th, 2011
Good news today! David Hodge, the new SCC Leader, has abandoned plans to ‘Community partner’ the second tranche of libraries, which included Knaphill and West Byfleet.
You can see the SCC press release here.
(Some small concessions for the first tranche, with a member of staff for 20% of current opening hours, but no further climb-down yet. )
But very good news for Knaphill!
October 17th, 2011
There are weeks with very few formal meetings, and nothing to blog. Then they all cluster together, and I can’t write them up fast enough.
Last week was like that.
I’ll start at the end and work back, because the most recent feels the freshest.
Woking Library – temporary move
On Friday afternoon I visited the empty shop unit in Wolsey Walk between Boots and Sainsbury’s (photograph above) which will house a small proportion of Woking’s book stock for the duration of the refit. Just about opposite is the smaller unit which will have ten computer stations. A much reduced provision while the library is being refitted, but better than nothing.
While the main library is closed books can be ordered without charge, and should come through reasonably fast if they’re part of the main library stock elsewhere in Surrey.
And it could be a good time to explore the smaller libraries – Knaphill has a good range of books and a number of computers.
Basingstoke Canal – situation normal?
One of the members of the Basingstoke Canal Joint Management Committee said at the meeting on Friday morning ‘you could almost run every meeting of the committee by your recollection of the previous one’.
There’s a lot of truth in that. We had the usual anxiety about whether the locks would be working and the canal open for next spring; regret expressed that the ‘riparian authorities’ (Councils whose area the canal runs through) won’t pay the amount they’re asked; and reports of conflict between cyclists and other users of the towpath, especially on the stretch brought up to standard as part of the ‘Cycle Woking’ project.
Unfortunately, as those of us from Woking had heard at the Local Committee meeting a couple of days before, Cycle Woking funding is coming to an end, and maintainance will fall to the the Basingstoke Canal Authority. But there is not enough money for more than the most basic maintenance, and keeping the banks intact has to come before cyclists and boaters start slugging it out over any remaining spending.
I asked that we should have a report on how much extra would be needed to keep the upgraded stretch of canal up to the Cycle Woking standard for the Woking Local Committee. I think the shortfall needs to be recognized and, hopefully, tackled before we find the path’s condition falling back . Any deterioration will potentially increase the conflict between all the present users, and reduce its use as a sustainable transport corridor east-west through Woking.
Linda Kemeny, who became County Councillor for Brookwood and St. John’s earlier this year, is now Chair of the Basingstoke Canal Joint Management Committee. A diary clash meant I missed the meeting on the 17th of June which must have been her first meeting as a member, and at which she was catapulted into power.
But at least she will be in a good position to support the Canal on the Woking Local Committee, all the more so since she is the partner of Councillor John Kingsbury, Leader of Woking Council and Vice-Chair of the Local Committee, and was his Mayoress when he was Mayor.
Linda also seems to have the ear of the new Conservative Leader of SCC, David Hodge: she said he was ‘particularly supportive of the Canal’, seeing the ‘problems and the opportunities’. She said that on a visit to the Canal Centre he was ‘blown away by what he saw.’
Woking Local Committee
The Woking Local Committee met on the evening of Tuesday 12th. As a usual there was a range of reports, and if you asked every Councillor there the one thing they thought most interesting/important, there’d probably be little overlap.
So I will limit myself to three bits of news that you might not get elsewhere:
- Chobham Road in Knaphill, from the Garibaldi Crossroads up to Chobham, has been redesignated a ‘Priority 1’ rather than a ‘Priority 2’ salting route. This is a very busy little road that has a lot of bends and awkward ditches, and which people living in the ‘Birds’ estate rely on, so I’m delighted to see this change. Salt bins ordered last year should be in place at by the end of November.
- Objections to the traffic order placing time restrictions on cycling in Town Square and part of Commercial Way were all squashed. Commercial Way is due to be cleared of some ‘clutter’. Mohammed Amin, LibDem County Councillor for Central, has allocated his ‘Community Fund’ small-bits-of-useful-highways-work money to this purpose. When the street is clearer restrictions there can be reviewed.
- Goodbye Cycle Woking Funding (cf Basingstoke Canal JMC and responsibility for towpath maintenance above). Welcome to the Local Sustainable Transport Fund, from which Surrey has initially won £3.93M of a bid for £5m to be spent over the next four years, but with some of it allocated to this financial year which needs to be spent quickly if there’s not a risk of losing it. Woking, Guildford, and Reigate with Banstead stand to gain the most, with a number of cycle and bus improvements.
Full Council Tuesday 11th
A week is an even long time in the Blogosphere than in politics. But this was a very odd Full Council, and I’ll try to pick out a few plumbs.
Andrew Povey managed to lever the words ‘first class’ several times into his last statement as Leader. Then Peter Martin nominated David Hodge, the previous Deputy Leader, as Leader: ‘David was brought up in an orphanage in Dublin … left at 14 … served in the army … three years in Northern Ireland … [a] Rotweiler Committee Chairman and Deputy Leader … keen Rotarian …’
The new Leader made a bid for popularity by saying the unpopular idea of a ‘single county-wide policy for on-street parking ends today’, and parking decision will be made by Local Committees. But it wouldn’t always be like this: ‘[there will be] difficult decisions for us to take and yes, some will prove unpopular.’
For the scuttlebutt around David Hodge’s apparent dismissal followed by ascent to power, you need to see Eber Kington’s vitriolic (and quite funny) account on the webcast of the meeting on the SCC website – if you can! I currently can’t, because my nice new Apple computer won’t play it. I can’t even refer you to a time from the index, because the only listing for Eber seems to be when he proposed his motion on changes to the library network.
When I get to an old-fashioned Windows computer and find it, I’ll post a link and timing.
The Library Motion
Liberal Democrats and RA/Independents combined to support Eber Kington’s very reasonable motion to Council saying that plans for Community Partnership libraries have failed to gain enough support and should be abandoned, although there is scope for more volunteering ‘within the context of a fully professional library service.’
We weren’t sure whether we’d be able to debate the motion because the Library Service proposals have been ‘called in’ for further consideration by the ‘Communities’ Committee, which can then ask the Cabinet to reconsider. (They have no power to force a decision change.)
Debate was allowed, and the Chairman decided to start it at 2.00 o’clock, after lunch, so that the unusually large number of people in the public gallery would not have to sit through a lot of business that might not be of interest to them. Unfortunately by 2.00 o’clock many of the protesters had left, having expected the meeting to be over that morning.
I spoke, and tried to take the message from the Friends of Knaphill Library that we don’t believe Community Partnering as currently described will work, that it is setting up libraries for failure so that they can be closed. I was instructed several times by the Chair that what I was saying was not relevant to the motion – I still don’t see why – but I hope I managed to get our main points across.
But the result was a foregone conclusion. Of course the Conservative majority voted virtually unanimously against, while we voted for, and were defeated.
Last but not least – Boundaries
I’m glad to say Officers, the Task Group, and Tim Hall, the relevant Cabinet Member, held to their original proposals for boundary re-organisation in Woking, though even Tim Hall commented on the strength of the Horsell lobby. Members had the chance to give their views again in the meeting, which Linda Kemeny and Ben Carasco did, opposing SCC’s proposals. Will Forster and I put a counterposition; I had already sent in my formal written submission, but after being in touch with the GPCA, I did my best to give a Goldsworth Park point of view in Council; while Will spoke up for the unity of Maybury and Sheerwater.
It’s now up the Boundary Commission to decide.
September 12th, 2011
Why won’t SCC recognise it has a much valued library in Knaphill, and stop threatening to close it down? Even before I became a County Councillor, something like seven years ago, it was under threat.
At that time it was housed in the old building on the High Street, a dilapidated second-world-war era pre-fab with leaking roof and failing heating system, only ever meant to be a temporary home. The campaign to keep a library in Knaphill succeeded, and the new Knaphill Library opened four years ago. Surrey took a lease on the ground floor of a closed supermarket in Anchor Crescent and, eventually, there was a splendid refit and a grand re-opening.
(But inevitably not the cheapest. The refit money was to be got back by selling the Old Library, which SCC has failed to do – though, to be fair, when someone put the site up for auction only on the strength of an agreement to buy it from Surrey, they also failed to sell it, and Surrey is still left holding this rotting baby.)
The new Library is bigger, has increased its opening times, footfall, and number of books lent. When I called in last Thurday morning, an ordinary weekday in the school term, nearly all the computers were in use and there was a good number of other visitors. Happy ending?
The New Threat
The economic train-crash that is the present government’s idea of managing the economy has been kinder to Surrey than other areas, where a whole range of services, including libraries, have been abruptly closed down. Surrey is still suffering enough that forced and false economies are being pushed through alongside genuinely long-needed reforms to increase efficiency.
A series of projects/studies called PVRs (Public Value Reviews) have been pushed through to find better ways of doing things (which will continue to become available as technology develops and society changes) and to save money. And, unfortunately, to save money in a hurry.
The PVR on the library service assessed and ranked libraries on a number of criteria, before identifying a core ’County Managed’ strategic network of 33 libraries, which will cover the County’s statutory duty to provide a library service. (Woking library is one of these core libraries.)
The PVR then listed the libraries it considered weakest, now down to a group of ten, as the first tranche for ‘Community Partnering’. Surrey has said it will go on maintaining these libraries, providing books … everything, except the staff.
The staffing budget, under present proposals, would be totally removed from April 2012. It’s over to ‘community groups’ to organise some sort of provision, which by its nature cannot be a ‘one size fits all’ model.
The library staff who are trying to implement ‘Community Partnering’ are the velvet glove on the iron fist of the SCC ‘s Conservative Cabinet. The plan going forward currently has a report coming to the December meeting of the Cabinet about closing any of this list of libraries that are not making progress towards being taken over by some sort of community group.
Knaphill with the remaining 9
This is what the report going to Cabinet at the end of September says:
There are 9 Libraries: Ash, Caterham Hill, Frimley Green, Hersham, Horsley, Knaphill, Lightwater, Shepperton & West Byfleet not currently identified as potential Community Partnerships or within the proposed managed network. It is proposed that SCC continue to fully support the service provision at these locations and that no decision is taken by the Cabinet to move these into Community Partnership until the pilot Community Partnered Libraries have been in existence for a full year, commencing 1st April 2012, and the success of the models has been fully evaluated and proved to be sustainable. The 9 libraries above will continue to form part of the County Managed network until this process is completed and appropriate consideration given by the Cabinet.
If this report is accepted by the Cabinet at the end of September, at Knaphill we’ve got eighteen months to watch what happens with the first tranche of Community Partnered libraries, and to fight to keep our library open.
How to do this? – That’s the really difficult question. I can’t see using volunteers to replace library staff directly will work or save SCC money, though I’m not conservative enough to think nothing can ever change, or that libraries couldn’t be made better use of as community buildings, alongside their primary purpose of making books available for everyone.
I believe in the ‘Big Society’ about as much as I believe in fairies. Volunteers are just that – volunteers. They can’t be held to account, and they generally have to put their other responsibilities, whether to paid work or their families, before voluntary work.
Who is going to want to be an unpaid library assistant? Why will they want to do it? I can think of few reasons good enough to sustain a long-term reliable commitment, and quite as many bad ones. And how many of those that want to do the job will actually be capable of doing it the way it should be done?
Is this just a complicated way of closing libraries?
That has to be the suspicion. But why go to all this trouble, when a quick, clean swipe now would have the best chance of being forgotten before the next County Council elections in 2013? There’s a long way to go and room for argument as the first tranche of libraries move forward with very mixed degrees of enthusiasm into this enforced freedom.
Here in Knaphill, library supporters do need to get ready to fight again. But we need to prepare for a campaign, rather than a single battle.
You can find the report going to the Cabinet on 27th September here.
July 22nd, 2011
Part way through Full Council on Tuesday I accidentally deleted nearly all my notes from my i-pad. We started at 10.30 and didn’t finish until four. Some time along the way clutched my i-pad in such a way as to delete most of my notes. So these are some of the bits I was awake enough to remember:
- Mike Dawson – described by the Chairman as Surrey’s ‘Mr Countryside’ – has retired; also John Ambrose, the Local Education Officer whose area included Woking. Two people whose wisdom will genuinely be missed.
- (Conservative) Council Leader, Andrew Povey, told us how well Central Government thought Surrey was doing, and launched a new Surrey Big Society slogan, ‘Everyone a Volunteer!’ I may suggest it as a stimulus for the creative writing group tonight, it’s open to so many interpretations and layers of irony.
- There was a review of the Council’s petition scheme. We Liberal Democrats tried (but failed) to get the number of signatures needed for a petition to be debated in Full Council down from 20,000 signatures to 10,000 so long as the issue affected more than one Surrey Borough or District.
- ‘World class’ is rather passé. Then phrase is now genereally used in a rather self-conscious way. I’m not sure whether to count ‘Big Society’s instead, or collect David Hodge put-downs of opposition Councillors. If you want an example look on the webcast for last Tuesday (July 19th) at him laying into Jan Mason during Councillors’ questions. Well done Jan for coming back at him so strongly.
(There’s an almost-brilliant ‘index’ button when you get to the page with your selected recording which I haven’t spotted before. It lets you get straight to the agenda item and the speaker you want to hear and see.)
- School places have been found for everyone who applied on time, but there are still unplaced late applicants, and applications received during the school holidays will not be met for the start of term – however encase of the appeals process some children are temporarily holding two offers, so it may turn out OK.
- Two motions got debated, one on ‘community partnering’ of libraries, and the study that led up to selecting the 11 that are faced with ;community partnering’, which David Hodge did not deny he had earlier said would close if no ‘partner’ was found, though this time round he was talking about looking at arrangements on a case by case basis. Denise Saliogopoulos, the ’portfolio holder’, only talked about having ‘no interest’ in closing libraries.
- If you’re interested in Byfleet library, Cllr. Geoff Marlowe’s explanation of the ‘two factions’ at work at the moment will be interesting.
(It’s at 2.59 on the recording, but under the heading ‘Members Question Time, hence my ‘almost-brilliant’ description of the Index facility.)
June 18th, 2011
‘Just in time’ school planning?
Last Tuesday was Full Council, and I made my voice heard by putting forward a motion on School Place forecasting and planning. I asked for a member-led inquiry into ways to improve it. It was thoroughly defeated, and there’s no point going over all the arguments now.
However my Liberal Democrat colleague Ian Beardsmore brought a striking note of realism to the debate, in contrast to the general Tory don’t-be-silly-we’ve-got-it-all-in-hand approach.
Ian is on the Planning Committee, and used the agenda for the next meeting to illustrate in a very concrete way that all is far from well with the present way of handling the ongoing problems described in my earlier posting here.
Seven applications for planning permission for classrooms to take a total of eleven classes are going to SCC’s Planning committee this coming Wednesday, 22nd of June. All but one of them is for a ‘demountable’ unit, which has disadvantages for children and staff compared to being in a classroom within the main school.
‘School place planning has failed miserably,’ Ian commented. ‘For the third year running this summer sees a glut of late planning applications for temporary classrooms next September.’
Although it’s likely that these applications will go through, there’s no guarantee – if there were, it would negate the entire process. But a failure to be able to build these new classrooms would have serious knock-on effects on children, parents, and local schools. We don’t want the uncertainty and distress for Surrey children that have been suffered in some London Boroughs, where some children have missed out on starting school. ‘Just in time’ production may work for consumer goods, but it doesn’t seem a good fit with school place planning.
(Link to Planning Committee papers here)
Woking Fire Station
A few years ago Goldsworth Park residents showed very clearly their opposition to a new fire station for Woking being built on the strip of land between Lockfield Drive and the Basingstoke canal. I still don’t think the plan will come back in that form, but the County Councillor for Woking South, Will Forster, now also a member of Woking Borough Council after being elected this May, picked up information that led him to put this question into the June meeting of Surrey County Council:
‘Woking Borough Council have previously approached Surrey County Council with a financial offer to build Woking Fire Station on a new site in exchange for the current one. Please could the Cabinet Member update the Council on Surrey County Council’s thoughts on and consideration of this offer.’
Tim Hall, the Cabinet member for Change and Efficiency, answered that there had been meetings with Woking Borough Council, which was interested in the site, and ‘the offer was to build a new [fire] station … out of town.’
Discussions reached the point where the Fire Service would have been satisfied, and Woking was going to draw up an initial outline agreement. Cllr. Hall went on to say this has ‘not materialized, and I have been advised that there is no longer the urgency from Woking Borough Council to pursue this at this time. As far as the Fire Service are concerned, the current location of the station meets their operational requirements at present. If the proposal is raised again by Woking, we would be more than happy to look at them again.’
Will’s comment afterwards was on the lines of ‘so it’s been kicked into the long grass’. However the present fire station is on a key site in Woking, so it’s a ball that may be brought into play again at some point in the future.
Will Forster also asked a question about the state of play on Moyallen / Woking’s plan to get Surrey County Council to agree to give up part of Woking library leading out onto Town Square in return for a refurbishment.
The reply, again from Tim Hall, reiterated that the refurbishment was badly needed, that there was a ‘dialogue’ going on, and that draft proposals are now being looked at by the Library Service and Surrey’s Estates Planning and Management Division. He went on:
‘The proposal does offer an attractive and visible access into the library from Gloucester Walk, along with an improved glazed elevation, which they believe will showcase a new interior. The space allocations do not appear to reduce the lending areas and include for re-vitalisation of the library itself. The library remains integral to the Town Square environment and the provision of a bright, flexible and modern library interior will offer opportunities for not only increased use of the library generally but also improved community use through for example author events, exhibitions and out of hours meetings. The use of ground floor rotunda as a restaurant is considered to be a complimentary use with the adjacent library. The non public library areas are proposed as being located in space above the existing library.
However, the scrutiny of the proposal, both in financial, lease and service terms, is not yet complete and no final recommendations yet made. We will consult Woking Local Committee in the near future.’
Will Forster asked if this meant we would be able to veto the plans, but perhaps unsurprisingly got no such assurance. Tim Hall said that it would be ‘unwise’ to commit to Woking Local Commitment any power of decision or veto, especially since we were ‘not the most unified’ [Local Committee].
I suspect though his meaning of ‘unified’ was closer to unified with the views of the Conservative cabinet, rather than unified among ourselves here in Woking.
Anyway why does Woking Local Committee want a real say, after Denise Saliagopoulos, the Cabinet Member for Community Services, assured us ‘we want to that library to be great … it is one of the County’s largest libraries … we will keep you informed all the way along …’ ?
March 7th, 2011
- And ready after a horribly long gap to try to deliver a condensed view of County Council happenings of significance to Knaphill, Goldsworth Park, and Woking.
From the Local Committee, February:
Fishwick Island (A 322 Traffic Island just north of Brookwood Crossroads) now a real gonner
Counter-petitioners to the Local Committee wanting this traffic island on a ‘desire line’ retained were given short shrift by the Chairman at the Woking Local Committee, and there is no prospect of reprieve.
Monday 14th March is when the sentence is currently due to start being carried out. It will take three days, daytime work, involving switching the present traffic lights off and employing a temporary system. After which drivers turn right should feel much less frustrated and not ‘need’ to go the wrong way round the roundabout or through the garage.
Daytime working will control the costs, which are have been directly authorised by Cycle Woking rather than coming though the local committee. I understand the money is, ironically, coming from ‘planning gain’ money intended to improve infrastructure.
I am not the only one to have suspected the proposal for ‘community partnered’ libraries of being a covert way of closing them. There are campaigns to ‘save’ the eleven libraries in the first phase – and not by drawing up rotas of volunteers to take over from SCC.
Geoff Marlowe is the County Councillor for the Byfleets, Byfleet being one of the eleven libraries concerned. He said at the Local Committee meeting ‘as I understand it, we have until the 1st of September to get our act together. I’m quite upbeat about it.’ But as the Chairman of the Council maybe he feels an obligation to be positive. I repeat my plea to use our libraries, especially Knaphill and Woking, to avoid losing them.
The rest of February …
It went, and there was plenty going on. The Joint Management Committee of the Basingstoke Canal saw as much concern about lack of money as ever. Ian Brown, the Canal Director, used words like ‘rather a desperate time… zany year … need to spend £200.000 a year to maintain this canal, £50,000 is what we have been able to spend this year … crucial partnership funding continues or totally unsustainable … ‘
There was yet another meeting about the shared use by cyclists and pedestrians of parts of the town centre. This was organised by the disability lobby and billed as a chance to hear the debate. A speaker from Guide-dogs for the Blind explained why she thought shared use was a bad thing. Iain Reeve, Assistant Director for Strategy, Transport and Planning, gave an excellent presentation on the importance of cycling, but one whole slide consisted of the words: ‘What I am not going to talk about: “hear from campaigners from both sides of the Shared Surfaces debate.”‘ and it was a carefully balanced view, leaving the political responsibility firmly with the politicians.
This left one pro-cyclist on the panel, who had not been expecting to have to to make a presentation but only to comment as required, left to carry any argument in a vociferous debate.
We have to make a decision on the 28th of March, and the e-mails pro and con come thicker and faster than ever.
Some news about roads
On a more positive note, after a year of reduced spending on road repairs and a bad winter, there are some long-awaited repairs planned for 2011/12. This at last includes surface dressing Lockfield Drive from the Amstell Way roundabout to the Littlewick Road roundabout, and Northwood Avenue (with its footpaths). Knaphill High Street is on this year’s Major Maintenance programme.
I followed up a request for repairs to Bampton Way (near Waitrose) where people at the bus stop are getting badly splashed by traffic when it is wet, and asked a formal question at the Local Committee meeting mentioned above. I was told the problem with surface water ‘ponding’ there has been recognised, and the best solution is to skim off and relay a short stretch of road from there towards Alterton and Torridon. This is not (yet!) big enough to require an official ‘scheme’, and the hope is it will get into the next Local Structural Repair programme.
And finally – Knaphill Old Library
It’s a bit odd, really. There I am campaigning to get the Old Library sold so that the money goes back to doing useful things for the community,when great big notice goes up in the garden saying it’s to be auctioned on 16th March.
Result? !- Not quite. The situation is more complex than it looks. Surrey County Council (SCC) has exchanged contracts with a ‘specific purchaser’. This purchaser has then put the library up for auction through ‘Barnard Marcus’ on 16 March, without consulting SCC. There’s nothing to stop him doing this, but he can’t complete a sale at auction unless he’s completed the purchase from SCC. The risks involved in putting it up for auction are being taken by this purchaser, who will find himself with costs to carry in terms of auction house fees, stamp duty, etc. As far as SCC is concerned, there should be no board put up, and anyone wanting to look round will have to go through Surrey’s agent.
This all came out last week, and I don’t know currently whether there’s been any further progress.
You couldn’t make it up, could you?
February 2nd, 2011
The Cabinet approved the proposals put to them on Tuesday as described in the post below, including the withdrawal of the mobile library service.
If you want to protest about this, one of the things you can do is sign the e-petition on Surrey County Council’s website here , asking Surrey to reconsider this closure.
This petition currently has a low number of signatories which I doubt reflects its true support - so if this matters to you, don’t just sign it, pass the link on to others.
There will also have to be some form of consultation with existing mobile library users. Surrey will have to be seen to take notice of equalities issues, but they need to be stated and made obvious if there’s to be realistic mitigation.
The other point I noticed in the Cabinet’s recorded decision is they expect ‘that local committees lead in driving the community partnering approach for libraries forward’.
Gosh, libraries as well as youth services coming down for us to find ways to make work in our Boroughs and Districts, but with much less money. Localism and the Big Society at work. To make us World Class.
January 28th, 2011
The good news about libraries in Surrey is we’re probably not going to see a ‘fire sale’ of the sort apparently forced on some other Local Authorities.
A ‘Public Value Review’ (PVR) on the future of Surrey Libraries going to the Cabinet at the start of February (main report here, including appendices here) does not recommend any branch closures in the short run. Since the PVR is fronted by the Deputy Leader and the Cabinet Member for Community Services, proposals might get tweaked but are unlikely to be thrown out.
All libraries can expect some degree of change, the most challenging/threatening sounding of these being ”to give community groups the opportunity to take over the day-to-day running of some of Surrey’s smaller libraries and allow the council to focus resources in the busier ones as well as the hugely popular virtual library which is now the county’s fourth busiest… Under the proposal, the council would continue to provide the library building, stock and other resources with community groups taking control of the day-to-day running, allowing them to make decisions and harness the power of localism.”
(Is there anyone out there with time on their hands, dreaming of having a library to play with? And will it show the ‘community’ does not value the library if no-one wants to take up the offer of running it? )
The libraries SCC is planning to offer this ‘opportunity’ first includes eg Byfleet, Bagshot, New Haw, and Virginia Water.
For a full list see the SCC website here. They will have been selected on the basis of criteria including eg footfall, cost, distance from alternative libraries.
The PVR has come up with a few other genuinely positive proposals: for example, to try the model of making the library service part of a ‘Community Hub’, with one of the initial pilots being in Maybury and Sheerwater. The e-library service should be extended – it’s possible already to borrow e-books and audio books through the SCC website. Wifi is being introduced.
The big piece of bad news (I had heard rumours, but knew nothing when I wrote my column for the February issue of the GPCA News) is the plan to withdraw the Mobile Library service.
What will this mean for Goldsworth Park, and for Woking?
- The Mobile Library in its present form will go, unless there’s a significant campaign to keep it so that the cabinet throws out this recommendation. There will be consultation with people using the mobile libraries. It’s important that those who rely on this service speak up and their needs are made clear – every report and decision has to take account of equalities issues, and there may genuinely be other ways of reducing any disadvantage to the elderly and disabled. Some of the money saved is ear-marked for this.
- Woking Library is one of the ten largest in Surrey, likely to continue relatively well resourced, and be in the forefront of ITC based improvements.
- The Knaphill library, though small, has had more use since it moved onto the new site; if you value it, please keep using it.
- Byfleet Library is on the list for ‘Community Partnering’.
The report says the Cabinet should expect Surrey’s Local Committees to ‘lead in driving the community partnering approach for libraries forward’.
The Local Committee used to be a joint transport committee between Borough and County. Now there’s a lot fewer road schemes, and we’re told we’re going to be involved in commissioning Youth Services and finding people to keep libraries open for no pay.
I’m not sure we’re ready for this.
January 21st, 2011
The trouble with being away for both Christmas and New Year (jolly good itself) is returning to large numbers of e-mails and a diary
already peppered liberally seasoned with personal arrangements and other meetings. But enough of excuses -
Knaphill Library Reading Group
- there are two Knaphill Library reading groups. I go to the one on the ‘first Thursday’ each month. It was a pleasure rather than a duty to get together in Tuu’s restaurant in St. John’s on the first Thursday in January, for our annual post-Christmas meal out. We talked a little about Sophie Hannah’s mystery, future book choices, past reads – and all sorts of other things, as we do at the more usual meetings in the library itself.
If you’re interested either in the book groups or other activities centred on the library, the ‘Friends of Knaphill Library’ AGM is on Saturday 29th January at 11.00 AM. (All library users are automatically members of the ‘Friends’ group unless they choose not to be. And our consitution is deliberately minimalist.)
Proposals about the future of Surrey libraries will be going to the Cabinet shortly. As far as I am currently aware we have no reason to panic about the immediate future of either Woking or Knaphill libraries. But while the core role of the libraries as lenders of print books continues, it would be really helpful if they were used for other ways of supporting all sorts of ‘cultural’ activities within the community. It would give the present library network a justification for its existence in utilitarian terms, rather than relying for its survival on an appeal to some higher value found in books per se.
Children and families committee (11th of January)
A solid (stodgy rather than satisfying) meeting where we were so used to seeing seeing reds on the Directorate ‘scorecard’ that we hardly reacted even to seeing red outnumber green. (here)
We’d had the reds explained before, there were extenuating circumstances, or there was nothing we could do about them. An example is 16 to 18 year old NEETs (Not in Education, Employment or Training.) Red because it’s still above the target of 3.20%, but it’s fallen from 6.10% in September to 4.60% in October, which is also (a bit suspiciously) the Year-To-Date figure.
We spent a lot of time hearing about money, and how much less of it Children, Schools and Families would have next year. (The presentation should be on the SCC website, but either it isn’t or I can’t find it. )
Caroline Budden, Head of Children’s Services, was our chief guide. Over a four-year period the figures look much less bad than in earlier scenarios, but the first couple of years take disproportionately bigger cuts. Effectively, a lot of funding streams coming into Surrey have been pooled and the pool made smaller, so that ‘things aren’t agreed and sorted, we are in negotiations with other colleagues on how to manage so that [things are] equitable and safe.’
The Conservative Councillor who said ‘[I] still don’t have comfort that this will be a good service,’ seemed to me to have understood accurately what we were being told, though in careful, almost coded language.
What Caroline can tell us is that the absolute basics are in place so that Surrey is no longer inadequate, and that her ‘Custer’s last stand would be putting forward my four area teams ‘ to maintain essential safeguarding.
Throughout the later agenda item Standards in Social Work, ‘place’ and ‘journey’ were the dominant metaphors: ‘been on a journey’ … ‘deep dives’ …’ progress to a place’ … ‘where we’re trying to get to’ … ‘as we move forward’ … ‘a journey, as it tells us that it’s not very good and we have to improve … ‘
So, like the fool on the Tarot card with the dog nipping at his heels, the Council travels hopefully on.
Ruth House and Applewood (Children’s Respite Care)
I had asked in the previous Children and Families meeting that we should have a short written report at this meeting on Ruth House and Applewood, Surrey’s two new respite care facilities for disabled children that have never fully opened. I got it, but it was confidential – proposals will be going to the Executive later, and I’ll come back to this subject when I can.
I shook Prince Edward’s Hand on Your Behalf
- or did he shake mine? I’m not sure of the etiquette, but as the local County Councillor I was invited to be part of the reception line-up on 12th of January (after the Mayor of Woking) when he came to visit Peer Productions, the Youth Arts ‘Community Interest Company’ running out of the Woking Youth Arts Centre in what was the old Infants School at Knaphill.
Prince Edward was there mainly to see and encourage the young people who in a neat series of sketches demonstrated the range of what Peer Productions does, explaining the way talented and generally slightly older young people work to understand the difficulties faced by other (generally) young people, and then take what they have learned out to more young people, in schools. Typical ‘projects’ have included Teenage Pregnancy, Homophobia, and Mental Health.
His Royal Highness clearly knows how to work rooms and talk to people smoothly, probably from practise and training, but to the point where it looks instinctive and natural. I got the impression he left everyone feeling good about the event. A great skill, and a significant part of the justification for maintaining a monarchy.
November 7th, 2009
This was meant to be a brief round-up of some of the things that have happened since the Local Committee meeting on 22nd October; then there so much to write about, it grew. But first, an explanation:
Last week I got my over-60s bus pass. (Genuinely triffic – very pleased.) But it set me thinking, at this stage of my life, probably I ought to be sure enough of my opinions, and confident enough in myself and the people whose views I value, to express these views directly. I’m not very practised at this – what I normally aim for is to give a factual, reasoned and evidenced account or argument.
So I’m going to give it a go every now and then, under the heading IMHO (‘in my humble opinion’, which I guess is webspeak for ‘this is me. Like it or loathe it.’
David McNulty, the new CEO of Surrey County Council, has set himself the task of spending half a day with every one of the eighty Surrey County Councillors in their Division. Quite a task – but effectively orchestrated and documented first by his assistant at County Hall, and then by one of our Local Partnership Team directed to join the tour and make notes.
He came to Knaphill/Goldsworth Park recently, looked round Lakers and Beaufort Primary School, then walked along Knaphill High Street with me taking in the old and new libraries before stopping for tea and apple cake at the Kings House Coffee shop. Borough Councillors Denzil Coulson, Melanie Whitehand and Olly Wells had been able to join us, and that gave him a chance to get an idea of the sorts of issues in this part of Surrey.
He was, as he put it, ‘in listening mode’ – he is clearly a bright cookie, and it will be interesting to see how much both the style and content of the way things happen in SCC changes. You can read his SCC blog here , though unfortunately when I posted this it didn’t seem to have been updated since early October – I hope Surrey is not having too sapping an effect on him and more will appear soon. He seems to have kept blogging fairly consistently at Trafford, his last authority.
David McNulty had to leave eariler than we initially expected because he had an appointment with Lady Toulson, the High Sheriff of Surrey.
This had unexpected benefits since ‘Who is currently Surrey’s High Sheriff ?’ came up at our Libdem Quiz the very next day. The team I was in won by one point. Thank you, Lady Toulson.
No Saving Pegasus
The Cabinet ‘reconsidered’ their decision to stop the Pegasus Bus scheme at the end of this school year early this week, but only to confirm what they had agreed. This was very disappointing for the cross-party group, supported by thetransport committee, that had managed to get the issue referred back to them.
One of these was David Goodwin, a Guildford County Councillor. His comment was:
“This was a pilot project which has not been properly assessed for other options such us increased fares, reduced costs and alternative sources of funding. No such quantitative report has been produced to demonstrate that the service could be made more viable. If the Conservatives had been serious about providing the service they would have carried out a detailed feasibility study, which has not been the case.”
Deposed Leader of the Council, County Councillor Nick Skellett, was not allowed to speak at the Cabinet meeting, although many had seen Pegasus as his ‘pet project’.
This decision will be a blow to parents in Guildford, but I understand there is ongoing discussion in the schools concerned about whether anything can be done to make the situation at all easier for them.