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‘Funding cuts leave rural libraries at disadvantage’
Published 15/08/11

PLANS to cut staff at Goring library have been branded “stupid” by parish councillors.

The library in Station Road is one of 16 that face losing two-thirds of their staff funding under proposals from Oxfordshire County Council.

The others include those in Sonning Common, Benson, Woodcote and Watlington.

The cuts mean volunteers would be needed to maintain the current opening hours but the libraries would be given free use of their buildings, access to the council’s book stock and computer network and professional support from librarians.

A meeting of Goring Parish Council on Tuesday heard claims that the county council’s reasons for targeting certain libraries were driven by an anti-rural bias.

Chairman Alan Strong said: “The county council’s premise right at the start is to prioritise five areas — where people live, work, shop and study and public transport. By those criteria these have to be urban areas. Once that was set then there was a bias against rural areas.”

In the council’s criteria, Goring was given a zero rating for shops despite being within walking distance of the village’s shopping arcade.

It was also given a zero rating in the school category because Goring Primary School is 0.6 miles away rather than the half-mile required.

Councillor Lawrie Reavill said: “Apparently our shops don’t have a single customer and we don’t have a school in Goring. This is the sort of bizarre reasoning that we’ve been exposed to.”

He highlighted that Banbury has two libraries within a third of a mile of each other which are earmarked for full funding.

Cllr Strong said: “How we could fall from fully funded to one-third is beyond me. If they look at usage, then Goring is a very successful library.

“Streatley people come to Goring library. All our schoolchildren use it but the council doesn’t count Streatley school, nor South Stoke, nor the pre-schools that use it.

“The result is that we fall into the category that is for one-third of funding.

“My argument is that there should be equal misery for everyone. To set up a study that is so against rural libraries is quite ridiculous.”

Councillor Kevin Bulmer said the council had made “blatantly stupid” errors. “It’s if no one has checked any of the report,” he said. “At least it’s so poor that it’s easy to tear it to pieces.”

Cllr Reavill added: “It’s terribly easy to demonstrate how incompetent it is but it looks like the county council is going to try to defend it.”

He claimed that the public consultation, which started at the beginning of June after being delayed four times, would also disadvantage rural areas. “There are more people in urban areas, meaning they will vote in favour,” he said. “I think that the overall response to the plans will probably be in favour.”

Councillors also criticised the county council’s lack of cohesion with South Oxfordshire District Council, which has earmarked Goring as one of several larger villages suitable for hundreds of new homes over the next 15 years.

Cllr Bulmer said: “This is not a plan for the future, it’s not even a proper plan. They have looked for the simplest way to solve their problem but it’s not managing it for the future.”

So far, the county council has received more than 1,000 responses to the consultation, which ends in September. To take part, visit www.oxfordshire.gov.uk or complete a feedback form that is available at all libraries.

lA public meeting about the threat to Goring library will be held at the village hall on Wednesday at 7.30pm.

Published 15/08/11

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