Following the meeting between library campaigners from the Isle of Wight and officials from the DCMS yesterday, Dave Quigley has sent this report. In his own words. Ed
When we received the invitation to visit the DCMS, having heard comments from some of the other groups who had been, we were not sure quite what to expect. What a surprise awaited us, unlike our local authority, the DCMS officers actually wanted to listen to us.
The meeting started at 12 noon and we were told it must be restricted to 1 hour! The DCMS staff involved were two senior officers from their libraries department and one of their lawyers.
On many of our points they not only listened and took copious notes, they also encouraged us to elaborate. The meeting eventually finished at 1.25.
DCMS impressed by standard of submissionsWe made two submissions of our own and also handed in three others including the Bembridge Library User Group’s very well produced document.
They seemed impressed by the standard of all submissions and were amazed by the number of supporting emails and comments taken off-line from VentnorBlog.
They accepted several hundred pages of documents from us for their consideration before advising the Minister.
No decision yet
We knew before we left the Island that we would not get any decisions from them at the meeting, we were told that none of the other groups that have visited before us have received any decisions either.
We were asked “Why have you not tried to discuss your thoughts and ideas with the IWC?” They seemed surprised when we informed them that the council on the Isle of Wight, in our view, take decisions and will listen to no “interference” from their electorate. We used as an example the decision to close the Fire Control Room, which, despite widespread opposition from Islanders and from the FBU, there was not even a council debate and that it was a one-man delegated decision.
They seemed very surprised when they were told that it is regular practice for our elected representatives to make these “delegated decisions” that permit no debate in council. They were even more surprised to read a comment on one of the emails from a parish councillor who commented that in a meeting with one of the cabinet she was told that “no conservative councillor will ever vote against any motion in council from their own party, THEY ARE NOT ALLOWED TO, they may only abstain” So much for democracy IW style!
DCMS amazed at council’s rejection of alternative budget
In view of comments made by Ed Vaizey, Grant Shapps and the Prime Minister all reinforcing their views that library closures were not to be used as a first line cost cutting exercise but as a last line when all else failed.
The DCMS were amazed by the IWC’s failure to give any consideration to the three alternative budgets which could have saved all the libraries, public toilets and TICs, in fact they had been unaware of the cuts being made to the tourism infrastructure as well as the libraries. They also could not understand the council’s reluctance to consider sharing CEOs or combining departments.
Overall we feel that the effort of putting our submissions and very large files of documentary evidence together, and actually getting to London for the meeting were all fully justified and we are quietly confident that justice and common sense will prevail.
We must also express our thanks to Andrew Turner and Carol Dennett for their efforts on our behalf is setting up this meeting.
Dave, Serena & Heidi
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