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Tuesday, 24th Feb 2015 by Green Group

Library Closures: What would you cut instead?

Green Group of Councillor’s Statement

The announcement of the review of the library service suggests up to 7 branches face closure.  This review of the service is brought about, in part, by cuts necessitated in last week’s ‘austerity’ budget.

Green Councillor, Charlie Bolton says:

"I am sure many people will be upset at the possibility of these closures. Libraries have been a part of the lives of many of us, and I am aware many people – quite rightly - have a huge amount of affection for them.  I am equally sure that people living near libraries threatened with closure will campaign to keep them open and I applaud them for doing so.

However, I would like to challenge those councillors seeking to make political capital out of these closures.   If you are a Conservative, not only has your party of government cut a huge proportion of the finances of local government, but you have also signalled your intention to cut a further £25billion from public expenditure if you remain in power.   Liberal Democrats have played their full part in the coalition and signalled their intention to recommend £16 billion of further cuts.   The Labour Party, in Bristol,  voted for £83 million of cuts to Bristol’s budget a year ago, and Ed Miliband tells us they will continue to cut if in government.   These cuts are putting local councillors in a quandary:  what would you cut instead?"

Greens point out that libraries have a social utility that goes far beyond the mere lending of books. They act as a place for people to have social interaction, a space for quiet and to offer facilities – particularly computing facilities - for those who otherwise wouldn’t have access to them   Greens intend to study the proposals in detail before making a final appraisal of the proposals.

Submission by Bristol Green Party to the Libraries for the Future consultation

As users and potential users of Bristol's libraries we have these proposals and priorities:

  • We recognise that libraries are a much loved and much needed local service - the Green Party does not willingly accept the Government cuts to the council that are reducing the libraries budget; one of the best ways to protect and support our city Libraries services is for parties in government to end the transfer of resources away from local government under the guise of austerity. The Green Group is also looking for other ways to avoid budget cuts to this service.
  • The network of branch libraries is a vital access point to books, council services and web access for many people - one priority is to provide and maintain local branches at convenient locations where people can reach our services. Some branch libraries may best be relocated to make them more accessible and fit for the future. This needs to be budgeted for in the council's coming spending plans - with no branch closed until a potential replacement service is fully discussed with the community and alternatives are ready.
  • Branches must be protected from cuts not just on the basis of the loudest protests but on the basis of the greatest need.
  • Underused locations should be subject of a much more determined exercise to find potential users, trial new activities (using any one-off transition funds first), and attract new initiatives that could extend their hours, support new uses. The need for services should take account of multiple social deprivation across the city with such neighbourhoods prioritised.
  • Local services including books, web access, trained library staff and toilets are a priority; support for research and finding trusted information, whether for study or hobby, or to deal with institutions and personal needs, is a key service that must not be compromised. Many other activities and facilities are also available and these need to be publicised effectively.
  • Services in the Central Library are a magnet for a great many users. There is also an opportunity to showcase local branches there as many users may not know what is available nearer them or what activities go on. As a well-used community asset we maintain that the building needs to be retained as it is rather than divided and transferred to a school. Any plans to replace the central library with a modern facility must be developed on the basis that this does not damage the branch network in terms of finance, resources and custom.
  • Any change to the management of the service, eg to a social enterprise model, must be on the basis that the integrity of the whole service is protected. Any local innovations and variations that meets local needs better should still remain part of the complete branch network integrated into technology and standards of the core, free offer. Volunteering can not be a substitute for trained staff.
  • Non users can be attracted to expand the reach of the service. These could be local branch, central or web users. Access to other council facilities and services is a priority eg contact points with libraries; careers services or youth facilities co-located with libraries; a health centre alongside a library; a senior citizens club sharing space with a library; a local trader basing their cafe in a library on a revenue-sharing basis. Opportunities for community facilities and centres to share library buildings and space should be explored, eg in Avonmouth. Making libraries community hubs will strengthen them.
  • Our top priority is to make sure those needing branch services still have them and that branches are located among other convenient, attractive, welcoming, and helpful council services and other facilities. Relocated or new branches must be designed to be where the majority of potential users can access them.
  • Refreshments and other services that generate revenue for the libraries service should be developed in conjunction with users, not auctioned off to the highest bidder from outside. Any revenue earning options must not damage other local traders but be developed in conjunction with the community to ensure they meet local needs. A corporate contract should be seen as a last resort not a first option, so that local businesses can be given opportunities with due weight to the additional benefits this can bring to the community.
  • The web offering from Libraries West needs to be promoted and integrated so that users can order and collect via branches more readily. This could be combined with ‘click and collect’ facilities for other e-commerce sites to attract their customers to visit libraries eg for parcels.
  • Quiet and noisy uses need to be accommodated so that families, those seeking peace or studying or job search, and others can share buildings.
  • Community users and potential community users, from local groups to societies, clubs, artists, entertainers and others can all be accommodated in some places and times if the facilities are reviewed. We'd like to see libraries attract many new users from all sections and cultures in the city. This development is likely to bring much diversity to the local ‘offer.’

Friday, 30th Jan 2015 by Martin Fodor

Response to Libraries for the Future consultation

Submission by Bristol Green Party to the Libraries for the Future consultation

As users and potential users of Bristol's libraries we have these proposals and priorities:

  1. We recognise that libraries are a much loved and much needed local service - the Green Party does not willingly accept the Government cuts to the council that are reducing the libraries budget; one of the best ways to protect and support our city Libraries services is for parties in government to end the transfer of resources away from local government under the guise of austerity. The Green Group is also looking for other ways to avoid budget cuts to this service.
  2. The network of branch libraries is a vital access point to books, council services and web access for many people - one priority is to provide and maintain local branches at convenient locations where people can reach our services. Some branch libraries may best be relocated to make them more accessible and fit for the future. This needs to be budgeted for in the council's coming spending plans - with no branch closed until a potential replacement service is fully discussed with the community and alternatives are ready.
  3. Branches must be protected from cuts not just on the basis of the loudest protests but on the basis of the greatest need. Underused locations should be subject of a much more determined exercise to find potential users, trial new activities (using any one-off transition funds first), and attract new initiatives that could extend their hours, support new uses. The need for services should take account of multiple social deprivation across the city with such neighbourhoods prioritised.
  4. Local services including books, web access, trained library staff and toilets are a priority; support for research and finding trusted information, whether for study or hobby, or to deal with institutions and personal needs, is a key service that must not be compromised. Many other activities and facilities are also available and these need to be publicised effectively.
  5. Services in the Central Library are a magnet for a great many users. There is also an opportunity to showcase local branches there as many users may not know what is available nearer them or what activities go on. As a well-used community asset we maintain that the building needs to be retained as it is rather than divided and transferred to a school. Any plans to replace the central library with a modern facility must be developed on the basis that this does not damage the branch network in terms of finance, resources and custom.
  6. Any change to the management of the service, eg to a social enterprise model, must be on the basis that the integrity of the whole service is protected. Any local innovations and variations that meets local needs better should still remain part of the complete branch network integrated into technology and standards of the core, free offer. Volunteering can not be a substitute for trained staff.
  7. Non users can be attracted to expand the reach of the service. These could be local branch, central or web users. Access to other council facilities and services is a priority eg contact points with libraries; careers services or youth facilities co-located with libraries; a health centre alongside a library; a senior citizens club sharing space with a library; a local trader basing their cafe in a library on a revenue-sharing basis. Opportunities for community facilities and centres to share library buildings and space should be explored, eg in Avonmouth.  Making libraries community hubs will strengthen them.
  8. Our top priority is to make sure those needing branch services still have them and that branches are located among other convenient, attractive, welcoming, and helpful council services and other facilities. Relocated or new branches must be designed to be where the majority of potential users can access them.
  9. Refreshments and other services that generate revenue for the libraries service should be developed in conjunction with users, not auctioned off to the highest bidder from outside. Any revenue earning options must not damage other local traders but be developed in conjunction with the community to ensure they meet local needs. A corporate contract should be seen as a last resort not a first option, so that local businesses can be given opportunities with due weight to the additional benefits this can bring to the community.
  10. The web offering from Libraries West needs to be promoted and integrated so that users can order and collect via branches more readily. This could be combined with ‘click and collect’ facilities for other e-commerce sites to attract their customers to visit libraries eg for parcels.
  11. Quiet and noisy uses need to be accommodated so that families, those seeking peace or studying or job search, and others can share buildings.
  12. Community users and potential community users, from local groups to societies, clubs, artists, entertainers and others can all be accommodated in some places and times if the facilities are reviewed. We'd like to see libraries attract many new users from all sections and cultures in the city. This development is likely to bring much diversity to the local ‘offer.’

Submitted by Bristol Green Party

Monday, 19th May 2014 by Graham Woodruff

Statement by Gus Hoyt : My Home

This statement is an explanation of the circumstances surrounding the purchase of my home. I regret that it is necessary to make it but the recent article in the Bristolian is full of innuendo and therefore has to be refuted.

This article is being spread on social media by some local politicians who have not been in touch with me to find out what actually happened. It’s a shame that local politics has to be conducted in such a hostile atmosphere.

There is absolutely nothing to hide and as a supporter of transparency, I’ll disclose all. Though this is a personal matter and to be completely honest no one’s business but mine…

I bought a house on the open market back in 2011. It was three doors down from where I had rented a room for a long time in a neighbourhood I call home. The agents were Maggs and Allen. They were conducting a ‘blind auction’  which is a process using sealed bids. Bids were to be made to buy the property ‘as is ‘-without detailed inspection – a slightly unnerving process.

After a viewing and the initial trepidation that’s normal when making such a huge life-choice, I expressed an interest and received documents that were little more than a photocopy of the layout. There was a small BCC (Bristol City Council) logo on the bottom of the page. I enquired about this and my heart sank when they said they were acting as the agents for BCC who were disposing of the property.

I knew someone, somewhere would probably try and make up a story about ‘the local corrupt Green Councillor’ and almost withdrew from the process. Having sought legal advice I went to the head of Legal Services here at BCC and was told that is was an independent sale which had already been decided upon and I had had no part in process, it would not improve or hinder my chances in the ‘Sealed Bid’ process and there was nothing irregular about it. Council Officers were not involved in the sale of the off-loaded property in any way, shape or form.

In the end, my bid was the highest and therefore sucessful and a long and difficult journey commenced where I had to decontaminate the piss and shit stained floorboards, knock back most of the walls and re-plaster the lot, deal with a collapsing kitchen ceiling rotten through with waste from the broken toilet pipe from the flat upstairs and so on… Looking back it I am not sure I would have bought it if I had known exactly how much work there was to do, but it was to be my home - not for a ‘spin sale’ and I am happy living here.

So in summary this was  before there was a Mayor and long before I assumed the portfolio for landlord services in May 2013. The decision to off-load the house was made under the then LibDem administration, a process in which I was not involved.  The sale was properly handled by a professional agent . I contacted BCC at the time and was advised that it was perfectly above board for me to bid for the property. My offer was greater than anyone else’s and therefore it was successful Neither the Bristolian or the local politicians who are choosing to spread their innuendo laden story have contacted me to find out what happened.

Normally I wouldn’t respond to such wild accusations but as they are being used to negatively campaign in an important election period and I have nothing to hide,  so why not?

All the best,

Gus

Friday, 28th Mar 2014 by Charlie Bolton

Letter to the editor: 'Like it or not, we need supermarkets' Reply

Dear Sir

I see your anonymous letter writer claims we need supermarkets ( 'Like it or not, we need supermarkets', letters, 16/3/14). This is of course nonsense. What we actually need is food.

What we don't need is a food system which results in massive numbers of car journeys, and therefore pollution. What we don't need is an absurdly centralised distribution system - resulting, for example, in raspberries, picked in Scotland, packaged near Bristol, and sold back in Scotland. What we don't need is a food system which - through the dominance of a few - results in areas of this city being turned into food deserts. What we don't need is a food system which sucks money  and jobs out of the local area.

Supermarkets do all of this.

What we do need is a system based on local production for local needs - where everyone has the opportunity to walk or cycle to local shops, which are actually local. What we do need is a system where - as far as possible - the money remains in the local area - through mechanisms such as the Bristol Pound. We need to make use of the high grade local agricultural land (such as the 'Blue FInger') to get food to local people. We do need to preserve the wholesale market.

By doing these things we can create a virtuous circle which helps local people, provides local jobs, keeps people healthy and cuts pollution and congestion. This is a 21st century solution. Supermarkets are part of the problem. Time to move  on.

Yours

Charlie Bolton
Green Party candidate
Southville

Friday, 14th Feb 2014 by Charlie Bolton

Letter to the editor: Cycling in Amsterdam

Dear Sir

I note that Tory councillor Richard Eddy describes cyclists as 'afflicted with a sense of self-righteousness, superiority and entitlement' (the Post letters, 'Cyclists behave badly in Amsterdam as well', 11/2/14). I was surprised, because I thought the Tories had cornered the market in those particular attributes.

He further describes a friend whose visit to Amsterdam was a 'confusing mix of users ( tram lanes, buses, cars and bikes)'. Well, I can only recall my own experience of visiting Amsterdam. The trams were fun, the cycling pleasurable, the infrastructure good to see, the cyclists - there were lots of them. Overall I had a great time.

As far as I'm concerned, having an extensive cycle network in Bristol, combined with policies to maximise levels of cycling is exactly what Bristol needs to do. But more pertinently,  I would point out that we could introduce an entire cycle network for the whole of Bristol for less than the price of the a couple of the proposed bus rapid transit schemes - and to do so would have far greater benefits for the city as a whole.

Yours

Charlie Bolton
Green Party candidate
Southville

Monday, 10th Feb 2014 by Charlie Bolton

Statement from Cllr Tess Green and candidate Charlie Bolton re the proposed RPS in Southville

The mayor has made a firm decision to impose residents parking schemes and we consider that it is appropriate to make this work as well as possible for the local area. We have no doubt that there are a number of issues to do with parking which need to be addressed.

We have both lived in Southville for over 20 years, and in that time, seen the area fill up with cars. When Charlie Bolton was councillor the last time RPS was an issue locally, he found from the council that there has been growth in ownership of cars locally of around 2% per year. Growth in the number of vehicles seems certain to continue. The area is either at or close to its capacity.

The problems as we see them include commuters parking in the local area, the sheer volume of cars owned by residents, matchday parking, pavement parking on some streets, and ensuring our great local shopping streets continue to thrive.

Residents parking as currently proposed is far from a perfect solution but starts to address some of the issues - particularly commuter parking. The limits in permits issued per household may make some small difference to the numbers of vehicles in the area. We hope the scheme will address blocking of street ends and pavement parking. We think there is a case to be looked at for extending the hours of operation to the evening and to include Saturdays. We also think it appropriate to liaise with local traders associations over impact on local business.

We have concerns over the price of residents parking - we would prefer to see the cost being less for those on low incomes or for carers. We don't expect anyone to be pleased at the prospect of paying an extra tax. However, we do not want to allow the problems of parking in the area to fester,  and consider that an 'implement and improve' approach is the way to go.

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