Last night I attended Southampton City Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee (OSMC) to grill the Cabinet Member for Resources over his proposed closure of libraries.
Everyone understands the financial challenge. Labour blame the government and the government point to Labour’s failure over debt and deficit on office. The reality is we are where we are and we have to do the best we can with the resources we still have.
It was for this reason I was shocked to learn that the Labour council has done nothing to protect our libraries instead recommending an option for consultation that closes five of our important community facilities.
These are not just places to borrow books and CDs, but safe places for people to meet and interact. We talk endlessly about keeping people in their own homes longer and then the council pursue policies that add to the level of isolation residents feel.
Last night I asked the council if they had thought of creating a libraries trust or considered a mutual. Neither of the options have been considered or investigated. Neither has working with neighbouring authorities to help deliver efficiencies.
I hope that the council will now consider these options rather than pushing through an unpopular closure programme that helps no one.
I would much rather find and offer solutions to the council than stir up dissent. My political opponents seem to offer no alternatives but for collecting names on a petition. I have lost count of how many of these Labour has done in the last few years and I have yet to see one make any real difference.
For complete clarity, it is a Labour council. The local Labour MPs, Councillors and candidates should be putting pressure on the council to come up with a workable solution. Perhaps they are and they just have no influence.