Slide 20 of 23
I am a ward councillor for a large rural farming community. With public-spending constraints, we are faced with tough decisions.
For some time, I've used the local library for my surgeries - I'm always surprised at how many people use it, and I get a lot of e-mails from there. The library staff are really helpful and encouraging - especially to older people who find the technology frightening. Now it seems sensible to move the library into the local school, to save money. But what will my constituents think?
I've had meetings with community groups at the library - it's tough going, with very outspoken views. However, I'm well informed: the library has distributed the leaflet with our proposals, but also has gathered responses from a write-back form on the Internet, so I've got a good idea what everyone thinks - and not just the vocal minority. I can also weight the views of local people; those in other areas have also commented, but they won't be using the combined facility. The chief librarian has also been involved, using the video link to answer people's questions about the proposals directly, and a 'Your questions answered' file is kept up to date on the library system, so I can see people's concerns.
We conducted an electronic referendum yesterday and gathered all the votes from my community, who were well informed about the pros and cons. We go ahead with the combined library and school, and I and my fellow ward councillors have agreed to protect Saturday and Sunday afternoon opening from the savings.
The whole thing has gone so well - I feel confident we've made the right decision, and that everyone has taken part and understands the issues and the tough choices. My colleagues in Planning are impressed, and the chair wants to use the process for a consultation on a major development in another rural area. He may not get the support he wants, but at least the response will be more reliable and comprehensive than just hearing the loudest voices.
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