Dear Cabinet Members,
I write in response to Powys County Council’s Combined Welshpool Library & Museum Survey/ Consultation with my views and the views of my constituents.
I have been contacted by many residents concerned about the proposed library move to combine Welshpool Library with Powysland Museum. Residents have also expressed frustration with the consultation process regarding this proposal.
I do not wish to complete the prescribed survey and I believe it should have been made clear to the public that they can respond to this consultation with their general views by way of email, letter or online, without having to answer the prescribed questions.
It is clear that residents really value the Library Service and so they feel very strongly about the proposed change. Having studied Information Studies (Librarianship) as a degree, I believe that such services hold great importance in our communities. Considerable changes, such as this proposal, should consider all options carefully, hold a genuine consultation and listen to the public view before making any decision.
When I first contacted Powys County Council about the proposed changes, the response I received implied that no consultation would take place. This was unacceptable and suggests that a decision had already been made at that point. Whilst I welcome the subsequent decision to consult/survey residents, this has left residents feeling that the consultation is a futile exercise. However, I have urged residents to respond to the consultation survey.
Furthermore, I believe the public have been provided with a limited amount of information on the background and context to this proposal. I note that a FAQ document has now been included on the online survey, but has this been provided for the full consultation period? Also, it is not particularly detailed. For example, it does not refer to whether the proposed changes will alter the provision of children’s activities such as ‘Lego club’ and ‘Rhyme Time’.
I fully realise that the council is under significant financial pressures and that once again, the provisional Welsh Government Settlement indicates that it will receive one of the worst local government funding settlements of all 22 local authorities in Wales. I understand that because of this, difficult decisions need to be made. Nonetheless, that does not negate the importance of transparency when making such decisions and these decisions should take into account how residents value such service.
In light of the many concerns raised, I trust that Powys County Council will duly and fully consider all consultation responses and options before making a final decision.
As said above, a large number of residents have been in touch with me with concerns about the proposal. It is worth noting that only one resident contacted me who was in favour of the proposed move.
Finally a full Impact Assessment should be carried out prior to any decision being made and I urge cabinet members to duly consider this and all information provided as part of the consultation/survey.