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Bonkers Blog February 2011

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5 February - Please tell me this is fiction

The aspect of ‘the cuts’ which may have got most publicity is the closure of several libraries and the proposal to staff some with volunteers. There has been a good deal of scepticism as to whether or not such a system can work but it seems the idea goes further than that. Bexley Voluntary Service Council (BVSC) is the official body which promotes and co-ordinates dozens of local volunteer groups and they get consulted by Bexley council on many issues, library cuts among them, and at least one member of BVSC must be worried because he or she has passed on some concerns.

It is said that some of the existing library buildings will be sold off and the volunteers’ libraries which replace them will operate from local shops, village halls, scout huts and the like. How the latter can operate as multi-purpose facilities is beyond me; where will the books be stored when another organisation hires the hall? It all sounds a bit far fetched but it gets worse. Apparently the volunteers will be expected to foot some of the costs of operating the library. Heating, lighting etc. How many volunteers are going to fall for that one? But Bexley council does stupid things. I remember not believing their intention to prosecute a resident whose payment was late because the due date fell on a bank holiday but I was shown all the correspondence and found the incredible was fact, so I have learned not to instantly dismiss reports that appear to be totally ridiculous.

This information has come from someone whose name I know, who I have met and can speak to on the telephone and who holds a position in the community. He/she is seriously concerned so it doesn’t look like a wind-up and although I have kept the identity under wraps I wasn’t asked to. The information isn’t a leak as such, it is said to be common knowledge in some quarters and my informant is expecting BVSC to back the proposal, possibly because they are in the pocket of Bexley council and not a truly independent review body. That’s difficult if it depends on the council for a grant. With luck, highlighting the issue here will help to tease out a bit more detail or even a denial. Libraries are the responsibility of councillor Caterall who was alone in speaking sense at the last council meeting. I remain sceptical but fully prepared to be shocked again.


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