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We need our libraries

In 2016 the council unveiled their “strategy to ensure the future of Swindon’s libraries”. Save Swindon’s Libraries mounted an active campaign and succeeded in modifying the plans, to the extent that Parks library, initially marked for closure, became the fifth core library, albeit with reduced opening hours, in the group to be retained within council control.

The South Swindon Parish Council later agreed to support increased opening hours. The rest of the smaller libraries were marked for closure in August 2016. Staff were made redundant and it is only thanks to parish councils and volunteer groups that many of these are still running.

Now we hear that SBC is coming back with plan B. Only 18 months after the last big idea they have now decided to appoint a commercial manager to increase the prospects of income from the library service!

Even their own cabinet member Keith Williams accepts that the library service cannot make money. How can it? It’s a service which lends books and facilities, rather than selling them.

So the latest big idea is to set up a public service mutual with £100,000 start up costs to take over control of the residual core services in order to bring the annual cost down to £1.1m.

Many of us remember the public sector mutual SEQOL which was set up in 2011 to deliver adult social care services on the council’s behalf, including assessment and care management services for older people and hospital social work, and which was closed due to financial problems in 2016, and the work taken back in house. Given this, why does the council wish to repeat a failed model with libraries?

Many local people use those libraries, many depend upon them. We are paying council tax for services, not airy fairy schemes. Stop tinkering with the libraries SBC, we need them. They are a vital and valued resource.

Eileen George, Welcombe Avenue, Swindon

No celebration of war

Mr Martin Webb bemoans the sensationalism of Armed Forces Day suggesting it is an attempt to snare ‘impressionable young minds’ and ‘celebrate war’. This is unmitigated nonsense, unworthy of a man so loudly professing his own high morals.

AFD is a celebration of the men and women of the Armed Forces who make enormous personal sacrifices. Men and women who have no right to unionise to secure their worker’s rights; who rely almost entirely on the mercy of public opinion shaping government policy.

On the other hand, it is a pleasant change of direction to extract such a clear confession of contempt. This pseudo-virtuous assault on AFD is not a protest against the ‘barbarity of war’. It’s an admission of revulsion for the men and women who serve and secure both national and international communities at times of great humanitarian need. And yes, they will continue to fearlessly face down despots and tyrants, responsible for enslaving and impoverishing their people.

Your confusion is clear and your indignation is all the more unimpressive for it.

Dom Watkins, Kennet Avenue, Haydon Wick

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