The Phoenix Theatre in Bawtry was full to the rafters last night. People wanted to express their concern to Mayor Peter Davies that the closure of Bawtry Library would have a devastating impact on the community and that the decision to close it is totally unjustified. Despite coming seventh out of 26 on what the Mayor has admitted is an “totally arbitrary and meaningless score-card”, the library is set to close (or be given to the community to run with no guarantee of support from the council).
Bawtry residents wanted to know why Bawtry was closing despite clearly being popular and accessible. The Mayor answered that this was because he sat down and looked at the list, and decided it was unfair for both Conisborough and Denaby to close so he took Conisborough off the list and added Bawtry on. This simply isn’t true; the first set of proposals included Bawtry to close. The Mayor denied that the library is on the closure list because it is likely that the council would easily be able to sell the prime development land on which the library is built, but failed to justify why it was on the list at all.
Residents also wanted to know how much money would be saved by closing the Bawtry branch. Neither the Mayor nor Julie Grant, Manager of Neighbourhoods and Communities, could answer. Nor could they give a vision of what library provision in Bawtry might look like once the council has ceased to provide it. Concerns were raised about the running of a library in Bawtry by volunteers; although a number of residents value their service so highly they are volunteering to help out, it is not clear how viable this option would be in the long-term. People at the meeting expressed worry about their personal records – would volunteers have access to the computer system? And if not, how would they manage the book borrowing? It is unclear if the council will continue to provide stock and IT systems, and if not, if the community could afford it themselves. The Mayor jumped at a schoolboy’s suggestion that perhaps libraries should charge for membership, a suggestion to which the Department for Culture, Media and Sport have already expressed a resounding “NO”, because it is prohibited by the Public Libraries and Museums Act. The Mayor then said this was “stupid” and suggested he should try to have the Act repealed. Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has already said that this will not happen.
These are all issues that the council has failed to explore and set out in its vision and proposals for a future library service in the whole of Doncaster, not just Bawtry. Residents are right to be deeply concerned – the council clearly has no idea what it’s doing, and the legal implications of the suggestions it is making.
The meeting met an abrupt end when Mayor Davies stormed out of the theatre, after Jim Board from Unison sought to explain that there is £3million available in council funds which could be directed towards rescuing the already failing library service. BBC News have covered it here and you can listen to clips from the meeting and comments from residents on this morning’s BBC Radio Sheffield.
Residents in Bawtry were left angry and frustrated when the Mayor of Doncaster Peter Davies walked out of a public meeting to discuss the future of their library.
Around 150 residents attended the meeting on Wednesday 2 February.
During the meeting Mr Davies said he had never taken a book out of a library, but had borrowed CD’s or DVD’s.
The Mayor interrupted adults and children and eventually left during a contribution from a union spokesman saying that the meeting had been hi-jacked.
Former head of Doncaster Library Service Gill Johnson also attended the meeting she said: “This was the most inept performance by a politician I have ever seen.”
Rachel Hodson who is on Bawtry town council was at the meeting: “I did not think that the Mayor answered any of the questions from residents.
One of the people who attended the meeting was 9-year-old Faye, she said that her school uses the library each week “One of our teachers gets in books from Bawtry library each week and reads them out in assembly; if the library closed we would just have the same stories over and over again”
Another resident said: “I think the Mayor is rude. He showed a young teenage girl who was speaking no respect when he shot her down in flames.”