Over the last few months, there has been much debate about the future of our local Swindon libraries. We have an extremely good library service in our town and over the years, libraries have played an important role in our local community. They are places for reading and borrowing of books, gaining access to the Internet for homework or job seeking, working quietly or meeting friends. As a local library user myself, I value them greatly.
It can't be denied that the Council, like all our public services, is having to work within tight financial constraints. Over the past few months, I have met local campaigners, talked about this issue on the doorstep with residents, raised it with Council officers and the Council Cabinet member Cllr Mary Martin and also with Libraries Minister Rob Wilson MP. Last week, the Council showed that it was listening to local concern and included Park Library as part of its core service. This is very welcome news indeed, and I am now looking for more work to be done to help ensure the future of branches such as Wroughton and Liden, for example.
One option that I am supportive of is a Library Trust, which is where a not-for-profit organisation would get involved. Trusts do not pay Non-Domestic Rates and have VAT exclusions. They are also eligible to apply for more grants and funding than councils can and are not tied into the structures, bureaucracy and purchasing agreements of councils, meaning they can purchase entirely tailored to the interests of the service. Members of the Swindon Libraries service have come up with just such a proposal and I am very keen that the Council pursue this urgently. I will carry on doing whatever I can to find new sources of income and support for Swindon's libraries.
Last Thursday, I helped to host a public meeting at East Wichel Community School. The meeting was organised by Councillor Claire Ellis and Nick Burns-Howell after residents got in touch regarding the current parking situation in Wichelstowe. I was very pleased to see so many local residents at the meeting putting forward their views. Following on from the meeting, I have asked Swindon Borough Council to carry out a full review of the arrangements in East Wichel and to keep us regularly updated. If you are a local resident and were unable to make the meeting but would like to have your views heard please drop me an email to Robert.firstname.lastname@example.org
I was delighted to unveil a very special sculpture in the village of Liddington over the weekend. The Hoarusib Bull, a lifesize portrait of a legendary elephant, is the work of Swindon's own David Lomax, who is a world renowned sculptor.The awe inspiring work is proof that Swindon is a place full of surprises, a place of contrasts and of hidden talents. I think it is time we began to speak more loudly about what we are capable of and what we are already doing in terms of our contribution to arts and culture. David Lomax is a pivotal example of this. He has worked for many years now at the top of his art and chose to do that here, in Swindon.
Finally, I would like to wish fellow Wroughton resident, Commander Tim Winter, the very best of luck as he takes part in Walking Home for Christmas as part of the Walking With The Wounded Charity. Tim will be braving the winter weather and walking 23 miles along the Ridgeway on Friday 16th December to raise money to support wounded veterans.