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Labour councillors in South Gloucestershire today questioned the sequence of events that has led to a nursery in Warmley being given notice to quit, and have urged the Council to redouble its efforts to identify a new site for the service.

The Rocking Horse Nursery provides 70 places operating out of the the Grange School site in Warmley. The Council voted to close the school last year, despite Labour opposition, with the closure date set as the summer of 2017.

However, because pupils and staff have left the school in the months since that decision, councillors were today asked to bring forward the official closure date to October 2016.

The nursery has been given notice by the Council to move out by the end of this year. However, the Council is claiming that the two issues are separate, something that Labour councillors dispute.

Woodstock_-_Andy_Perkins.jpgLabour's Lead on Adult & Children's Services, Councillor Andy Perkins, says:

"The Council made no reference to the impact on the nursery and its 70 places in the report recommending bringing forward the official closure date of the Grange, and when I questioned this I was told that the issues were not linked. But it is clear to me that the opportunity to bring forward the school's official closure has led to the nursery also being told to quit the site a lot earlier than they had expected.

The Council now needs to redouble its efforts to work with the nursery to identify appropriate alternative accommodation so that the children and parents affected do not lose a valuable service."

Labour questions nursery eviction

Labour councillors in South Gloucestershire today questioned the sequence of events that has led to a nursery in Warmley being given notice to quit, and have urged the Council to...

Labour councillors in South Gloucestershire say they back investing in new technology that could see libraries open for extended unstaffed hours, but they continue to oppose the ruling Tories’ proposal to massively reduce staffed opening hours.

Following a public consultation exercise on reducing library hours across the district to meet a £650,000 budget savings target, councillors will today be asked to vote on an eleventh-hour proposal to bring in an ‘Open Plus’ system.

The proposal would still implement a 33% cut in staffed hours across the district and an unquantified large cut to library staff.

Labour says that the level of staffed hours is an entirely separate, local, decision and does not impinge on the technology or principle of Open Plus which extends unstaffed hours. They therefore plan to move an amendment at the decision-making Environment and Communities Committee this afternoon uncoupling the two issues.

Councillor Ian Boulton, Labour’s Lead Member on libraries issues, says

“Labour voted against the budget cut target and we will not support recommendations that implement a policy that we fundamentally oppose. We identified an alternative source of funding when we set the budget – not using the Council’s scarce resources on shaving 50p a month off of the cost of the green bin subscription, and that remains our position. The Tories chose the bins instead, so the level of library cuts is entirely their responsibility.

The Tories are seeking to use Open Plus as a fig leaf for their large-scale cuts to South Gloucestershire’s library service. Their proposal will impose a 33% cut in staffed hours across the district and an unquantified large cut to our library staffing levels is inevitable.

The proposal also takes no account Priority Neighbourhoods, with Kingswood’s staffed hours cut by 37% - more than the district average.”

 

Councillor Boulton is also expressing his concern that the Open Plus proposal has only emerged after the public consultation run by the Council. He says:

"We are very unhappy about the way that the Tories have unveiled this option at the eleventh hour. It should surely have been the basis for the public consultation and previous discussions with library campaigners.

Open Plus has not been dreamt up since the consultation began. Other areas, such as Peterborough, have run Open Plus since 2014. The library service already has a close working relationship with a supplier of Open Plus technology so it cannot be a recent revelation.

The Tory committee chair told ‘Made in Bristol TV’ last Friday that:

'It is a relatively new technology but we have gone into it in great depth and there doesn’t seem to be any issue with it at all.'

If the council has gone into it in great depth why wasn’t it the basis for its consultation?

There may not “be any issue at all” with the technology, but the Tory proposal for implementing it raises many issues around staffing, personal security and access for young people.

Open Plus should not be used as a cover for a 33% cut in staffed hours at our libraries, but we should invest in technology that genuinely extends library access.”

Libraries – Labour says issues are separate

Labour councillors in South Gloucestershire say they back investing in new technology that could see libraries open for extended unstaffed hours, but they continue to oppose the ruling Tories’ proposal...

Labour councillors in South Gloucestershire are questioning whether the ruling Conservatives have been playing games by proposing a plan for the district’s libraries which they have now quickly ditched. The Tory Council recently consulted on a controversial plan to turn the majority of the district’s libraries into ‘satellites’ that would be open just 18 hours a week. This plan led to the formation of ‘save our library’ campaigns across the district, with users making their opposition clear.

Now, in a report going to a committee for decision next week, the council has effectively ripped up that plan and is instead recommending a brand new proposal which would see libraries open for much longer hours, although many of them would be unstaffed. The report claims that the ‘Open Plus’ model being proposed has been “successfully adopted” by several other councils.

Ian_Library.jpgCouncillor Ian Boulton, Labour’s spokesperson on library issues, has welcomed the change of heart but is questioning the Tories’ actions. Councillor Boulton says:

“The previous plan would have seen most of South Gloucestershire’s libraries reduced to a shadow of themselves so I obviously welcome it being dropped. We still have a lot of questions about this new ‘Open Plus’ proposal, especially in relation to staffing and security, and we will be pursuing those.

Over the last few months we have been working with campaigners in South Gloucestershire to highlight the disastrous Conservative proposals to cut our local library services. I suspect that the first question that most of the campaigners will be asking is: why have the Tories put us through all this anxiety when there was an alternative option available? ‘Open Plus’ has not been dreamt up in the past few weeks and it should have been the basis of the consultation.

I think it fair to question whether the Tories are in fact playing games by proposing something unpopular and then toning it down in an attempt to claim they have listened to the public. We have seen the same pattern with Kingswood Civic Centre, where an unpopular original proposal was subsequently modified.

Of course, South Gloucestershire would not have to pursue library cuts of this magnitude if Conservative councillors had backed Labour’s proposal to invest £460k into libraries rather than shave 50p a month off of the green bin subscription when we set the council’s budget in February.”

Libraries – are the Tories playing games?

Labour councillors in South Gloucestershire are questioning whether the ruling Conservatives have been playing games by proposing a plan for the district’s libraries which they have now quickly ditched. The...

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