Oxford Save Our Services (SOS) is a broad and inclusive group in Oxford concerned about cuts to public services. We are working closely with local library and friends’ groups to campaign against the closure of 20 of the county’s libraries.
We call on library campaigners to reject County Council plans for voluntary groups to run libraries at risk of closure. The Council expects to cease funding those libraries and plans to ask local groups to bid for one-off grants to run libraries with volunteers and without public funding.
There has been unprecedented public support from ordinary people of many ages, backgrounds and political persuasions for the library campaigns. Hundreds of people have attended meetings to support their local libraries in Botley and Headington. Last week, over 300 people packed the Town Hall for a meeting against library closures. There were representatives from many local campaigns. They all insisted that the libraries be maintained on a public basis.
Meanwhile, the Oxford Civic Society has revealed just how impractical it will be for voluntary societies to find the necessary funding, expertise and commitment to run a library (‘Hard Figures: We put the likely expense of running threatened branches under microscope’, Oxford Mail, Monday 24 January 2011).
Prominent children’s author Philip Pullman has condemned the idea of communities bidding against one another (see http://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/archive/2011/01/22/Oxford+news+%28om_oxfordnews%29/8806694.Author_backs_bid_to_save_libraries/).
Another renowned Oxfordshire author Mary Hoffman, whose local library in Bampton is at risk, has called on those opposing the library closures to ‘never be drawn into the argument about what could be cut in order to pay for libraries, and to have no part in the bids for Council support to run the libraries on a volunteer basis’ (see http://bookmavenmary.blogspot.com/2011/01/libraries-again-oxford-movement.html).
To express rejection of the County Council’s cynical strategy of divide-and-rule, local library campaigns should collectively refuse to bid for ‘Big Society’ grants, and stand together with all other library campaigns. Instead local groups should respond to the County Council’s consultation by restating that libraries should remain a publicly funded service.
Oxford SOS spokesperson, Peter Lefort commented: ‘Public services are an absolutely essential part of our community and vital to the lives of thousands of people. They cannot be bid for, dividing the people of Oxford, but must be fought for. To try to turn the cuts into a 'Big Society' gameshow shows how fundamentally the County Council does not understand its responsibilities for services.’
For further details, contact Stephanie Kitchen, Save Our Services, Stephanie.firstname.lastname@example.org, 07966 045144.
About Oxford Save Our Services
Oxford Save Our Services is an open group of Oxford residents defending our public services. We are concerned that the unprecedented cuts to public services, as proposed by the coalition government, will cause irreversible damage to our community and target the poorest and most vulnerable.
It is supporting groups come together as a community to take action before it is too late to prevent the end of public and voluntary services we all use every day.
Oxford Save Our Services are local residents, are not affiliated to any political party, and have no party political agenda. We simply believe that these cuts are unnecessary and are an attack on public services like hospitals and schools that we all rely on. We also firmly believe that people do change politics, and that we can do it again, if we work together.