Speaking on BBC Radio Shropshire this morning Shropshire Council’s leader partially backtracked on threats to remove discretionary business rate relief from charities contained in a recent letter. But he still wants to charge some charities. He said current media and councillor coverage of this is “scaremongering”. And, in one of the doublethink moments that some politicians excel in, he said that Shropshire Council had a “no blame” culture but “words would be had” with the officer who had sent the offending letter. So that’s no blame for anyone then.
Shropshire Council is being rather quiet about National Libraries Day. It issued a low profile press release two weeks ago and there are just four events running. It is perhaps not surprising that the council seems to be keeping its head below the parapet.
Shropshire Council is predicting that library budgets will be reduced by a million pounds, with a one third cut from April 2017. Hours at the six largest hub libraries will be reduced and they may be run by new providers (the hub libraries are about to be reviewed). Some of the sixteen smaller libraries are at risk of closure. It is unlikely that the mobile libraries service will survive. The workforce is to be “redesigned” – a cruel phrase probably means redundancy.
Very shortly, Shropshire Council will launch a review of the six hub libraries – Shrewsbury, Oswestry, Whitchurch, Market Drayton, Bridgnorth and Ludlow. I’ll write more about the review when I know more. But I do have a firm view on what the result of any review should be.
We know we will have to work hard to sort out a future for the hub libraries in a time of local government austerity. But I don’t think it helps that we set to spend time looking at transferring these libraries to communities or local councils. The six hub libraries provide an integrated service that can’t easily be split up. I cannot see how we can retain that with more than one hub provider, not without creating a lot of bureaucracy to oversee any future arrangement.
“What a mistake to make!”
Those are not my words. They were uttered by BBC Radio Shropshire’s Eric Smith yesterday morning (listen). He was talking about grants given by Shropshire Council to community arts groups around the county.
The arts grant scheme was quietly abolished by the council a few weeks ago without any public announcement. After a huge fuss by arts organisations and councillors, the council promised a rethink. That about-turn meant that the arts portfolio holder, Steve Charmley, was given an easy ride when Shropshire Council considered his annual report at its meeting on 24 September. It turns out that report was wrong. Continue reading “For want of a nought the arts grant was (almost) lost in Shropshire – please sign the petition”
A row blew up three weeks ago about Shropshire Council’s decision to axe funding for arts organisations, venues and festivals through its Revenue Client Grant Scheme. Barely had the ink dried on my blog post, when the council did a partial u-turn and said it would look at the matter again. It turns out that the council was making policy on the hoof without analysis of the financial consequences of its decisions. My view is that the council should guarantee the future of the arts grant scheme immediately. Continue reading “Shropshire Council gets its sums wrong on arts grants – they draw in ten times more money than it thinks”