At last Thursday’s Council meeting, Wokingham Liberal Democrats were appalled to learn that, despite their pledge in the recent local elections, the Conservatives have admitted that there is currently no money in the budget allocated for extra investment in Bulmershe School.
Responding to a question from Cllr Beth Rowland (Liberal Democrat councillor for South Lake Ward) on the proposed investment in Bulmershe School, the Executive Member for Education, Cllr Rob Stanton, said that there was ‘nothing in the budget’.
Cllr Rowland said: ‘The Conservatives have finally publicly admitted that there is no money in the budget for extra investment in Bulmershe School. I am appalled that school, parents, pupils and prospective pupils have had their hopes raised for nothing.
‘It proves that my Liberal Democrat colleagues and I were right when we said that the pledges made in the local elections by the Conservatives to invest millions in the school were just an election stunt. It is an utter disgrace.’
Wokingham Lib Dem councillors are furious that the council is pushing ahead with plans to privatise the Borough’s libraries without putting safeguards in place to protect the services offered or the number of libraries. The Conservatives made the decision in May to proceed with outsourcing the library service from next year, with no discussion or consultation.
The Lib Dems are particularly concerned that the council is not telling companies what they will have to provide if they get the contract. The “competitive dialogue” process will allow the companies to specify what they are prepared to offer, and does not even require them to keep the existing 10 libraries open.
Lib Dem group leader Prue Bray said: “Only last week the Conservative councillor in charge of libraries was still claiming there was no privatisation. Yet now the advert has been issued inviting companies to bid for taking over the libraries. It seems the Conservatives are hellbent on handing the service over to a commercial company, who will want to make a profit. Who knows what that could mean for the existing library services?
“Previous experience of the council going down this route is not encouraging. The competitive dialogue process was followed for Wokingham town centre regeneration, and yet four months after the council announced the name of the company that had won the tender we are told the contract has still not been signed – clearly there are difficulties with it. And on 6th June, the council handed over adult social care to a newly created company –whose Chief Executive promptly announced that it meant that ‘the council is now able to sell services to make a profit’. A council that sets out to make a profit out of the elderly and vulnerable is hardly going to flinch at going after libraries.”
Wokingham Borough Council has announced plans to award the library services’ contract to a private company in May 2012.
In response, Rachelle Shepherd-DuBey and Anthony Vick have announced the formation of a ‘Save Our Libraries’ campaign and are inviting anybody interested to contact them.
Rachelle Shepherd-DuBey said: “I am appalled by the thought of companies making a profit out of libraries. Libraries should be for the benefit of residents not city sharks.
“I am worried that the only way private companies can make a profit will be to close libraries and increase charges to residents.”
Anthony Vick said: “Anyone who wants to get involved in our Save Our Libraries campaign can contact us firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website at http://save-our-libraries.blogspot.com. We will need volunteers to organise petitions and other events at libraries, but as a start you can sign out petition athttp://tinyurl.com/WBCLibraries.”