The Liberal Democrats are outraged that Wokingham Borough Council is planning to privatise library services. At the meeting on 26th May, the Council’s Executive gave the green light to begin discussions with commercial partners to run the Borough’s libraries.
Cllr Prue Bray (Leader of Wokingham Liberal Democrats) said: ‘I am appalled that the Executive have decided to begin talks with commercial partners to run the Borough’s library services. Libraries are a valuable community resource that must be run for the benefit of communities not profit.
‘Library services are being privatised for ideological reasons. They could be the first in a long line of services that could be outsourced by the Conservative council. History tells us that outsourcing leads to cuts. I can only hope this will not mean that libraries in the Borough will close.
‘I am deeply concerned that the Executive have taken this decision without consulting anyone, with no detailed business case, and little in the way of background papers being made available to the public. I am sure there will be a great deal of opposition to this idea.’
At last Thursday’s Executive meeting, Cllr Beth Rowland (Liberal Democrat councillor for South Lake ward) asked Cllr Rob Stanton (Executive Member for Education Services) to confirm recent stories in the press that Wokingham Borough Council is set to invest £6 million in Bulmershe School.
Cllr Rowland said: “At no time, when answering my question, was Cllr Stanton able to specify how much would be invested in Bulmershe School, when it would be invested, or what the investment would be used for. Nor did he tell me how the Council would be able to fund any investment.
“From that, I can only assume that all the Conservative talk of investment in Bulmershe School this year during the recent election campaign was nothing but a election stunt based on wishful thinking. The Conservatives are playing politics with the futures of the children who attend the school. It is an utter disgrace.”
Cllr Jenny Lissaman (Liberal Democrat councillor for Bulmershe and Whitegates ward) said “In Cllr Stanton’s reply to Beth’s question he called talk of £6m investments as just rumours without foundation. Doesn’t he know what’s going on within his Executive role? On 30th March a senior council officer wrote to head teachers saying that he, Cllr Stanton, would be announcing an investment of up to £6m in Bulmershe School the next day.
So talk of £6m is not a rumour it is documented. So why didn’t he announce it as planned? What happened, why did he change his mind?”
Jenny added “Was he told by council officers that he can’t promise things without there being a budget or any idea where the money would come from? Was he told that the council had not prepared any firm plans so they had no idea how much money would be required? Did he suddenly realise it was wrong to announce something in an election period, without any real foundation, for electoral benefit? Whatever his reasons for changing his mind a council officer had already raised expectations by making this information available to head teachers”
Jenny concluded “Residents will never know why he changed his mind, but what I do know is that Bulmershe has needed significant work for years and I have no intention of letting the Conservatives off the hook now that they have promised substantial investment in their election campaign”
Wokingham Liberal Democrats are astounded that, at the Wokingham Borough Council meeting last Thursday, the Conservatives on the Council voted against reducing the amount of extra money that councillors with special responsibilities are paid for a second year in a row.
At the Council meeting, Prue Bray, the leader of the Liberal Democrat group, proposed that there should be a 5 per cent reduction in the so-called Special Responsibilities Allowance.
Cllr Bray said: ‘For the second year in a row, the Liberal Democrats proposed a five per cent reduction in the Special Responsibilities Allowance to demonstrate that we, as Councillors, are prepared to reduce the amount of money we receive, just as so many hard-working people across the Borough have had to do in the current economic climate. After we proposed this last year, the Liberal Democrat councillors affected asked for their Special Responsibility Allowance to be reduced by five per cent.
‘I am extremely disappointed that the Conservatives failed to support the Liberal Democrat proposal for the second year running. It shows a complete lack of understanding on their part about the economic hardship local people are facing in the world outside of the Council chamber.’
Cllr Stephen Conway, Liberal Democrat councillor for Twyford ward, said: ‘We were not proposing something that would only have affected Conservative councillors. The proposal to reduce the Special Responsibilities Allowance would have affected a third of the Liberal Democrat councillor group too.
‘We hope that the Conservatives will reflect upon their decision and will consider taking a reduction in the future.’
The Liberal Democrat Councillors who receive the Special Responsibilities Allowance will be taking the five per cent reduction that they proposed, and have called upon the Conservatives counterparts to do likewise