Cuts risk to history

Next week two local studies librarians will have to compete for a single job as Swindon Borough Council makes more cuts to its public services.

While we are saddened by any library cuts we understand the need to make savings in today’s unfortunate financial climate, but we believe this particular move is a dangerous one, that threatens the very fabric of Swindon’s important history.

The huge collection the library service holds on behalf of the people of Swindon takes the form of myriad books, documents, files, photographs, microfiches and computer data, as well as all the books.

This material is extremely complex and by its nature very difficult to catalogue and present in a straightforward manner.

The only way it can be accessed by the public is through the assistance of those who understand the data, those with the depth of knowledge and skills, those who work in the local studies department of the library.

To cut staff in this area is to promote a message that Swindon’s history, and the physical evidence of it, is not important and the council is prepared to let it perish.

Last week council leader David Renard was quoted in the Swindon Advertiser as saying that businesses tell SBC that ‘leisure’ offers, such as heritage, are really important for them when considering relocating to the town.

The people of Swindon have, of course, always known this, and it is no surprise to them that those thinking about coming here share this most fundamental belief.

However, despite the council’s realisation that it is important to recognise and celebrate a strong heritage offer, it is nonetheless slashing support for it at the most basic level.

Ironically, at the same time as cutting these staff who deliver a tangible service here and now, the council is putting more staff into the development of a new museum and art gallery for some point in the future.

In principle this is admirable and what the town needs, but sadly the borough’s track record for delivering cultural facilities is not good.

Just think of the canal that never came and the money spent developing the idea.

Perhaps more pertinently, consider the half a century it took to deliver the Central Library itself, a facility that has had its services reduced ever since it opened.

If the council wants a new museum/gallery to succeed it needs to understand that in these times of austerity it must look to the community to help with the delivery and development of such services.

Most importantly, it must start to appreciate that the skills, expertise and knowledge to do this are already here in the local history community, able and willing to develop Swindon’s rich heritage offer.

To destroy the most basic facilities that this community needs to do its work is the wrong decision.

Andy Binks, Richard Jeffries Society

Barbara and Hans Hoffbauer, Radnor Street Cemetery Database Project

Bob Townsend, Swindon Society

Carolyn Savory, Wiltshire Family History Society

Chris Hinton, Wanborough & Liddington Historical Society

Clive Carter, Wilts Buildings Record

Doreen Swannell, Chiseldon Local History Group

Elaine Jones, Chiseldon Local History Group Gordon Shaw, Rodbourne Community History Group

Graham Carter, Swindon Heritage

Jan Flanagan, Wilts & Berks Canal Trust

Jean and John Belt, Purton Historical Society

John Clements, Shrivenham Heritage Society

Julia Hunt, Wiltshire Family History Group

Karen and Kevin Leakey, Broadgreen & Queenstown History Group

Lyn Bishop, Chiseldon Local History Group

Mark Sutton, Swindon In The Great War

Martha Parry, Swindon Civic Voice & Mechanics’ Institute Trust

Michael Gray, Friends of Lydiard Park

Mike Pringle, Swindon In The Great War

Nigel Chalk, Stratton St Margaret O.P.C.

Peter Timms, Great Western Railway Research

Roger Trayhurn, Local history researcher

Sue Phipps, Local historian

Yvonne Neal, Wiltshire Family History Society


Spread the cheer

I know that charity stuff can be a bit full on at Christmas, but let me reassure you that I’m not going to ask you to grow an outlandish moustache or adopt a donkey (although go ahead if the mood takes you).

Instead, I want to let you know about something really special that is going on here at Brandon Trust.

The staff and volunteers at Brandon Trust, a charity that supports people with learning disabilities and autism in Swindon, are going to extraordinary lengths to ensure that members of your community will have an enjoyable Christmas this year, just as the rest of us expect to.

Banish all images of staff serving over-boiled sprouts and a bit of dry turkey to people in a badly decorated dining hall.

Care and support services have come a very long way since I was a mental health nurse in the 80s.

The Brandon Trust team is much more innovative and visits people with learning disabilities in their own homes (cosy houses like yours or mine), where they offer them complete control over how they would like their Christmas to be.

This could mean dinner with all the trimmings, attending a church service or having presents to open on Christmas morning.

If someone wants a lie-in and a leisurely day watching Christmas TV specials or films then staff will be there in the background to offer support and company, sacrificing time away from their own families to do so.

For those who find it most difficult to communicate and get about, the Brandon Trust team goes that extra mile to ensure these people have the chance to enjoy all the colours, smell and sounds that Christmas has to offer.

Simply being included in activities such as preparing dinner and decorating the tree can make all the difference.

As we all know, Christmas is not cheap. To keep this incredible support going the charity is looking to raise a bit more cash (social care organisations like Brandon Trust are dealing with the double whammy of public spending cuts and a growing demand for their services).

I know how amazing the work of Brandon Trust is and there are lots of ways you can help.

It would be fantastic if you could pledge some cash (which also, of course, will put you a notch or two above Santa on the do-gooder stakes).

You can do that at www.justgiving.

com/brandontrust/donate A simple donation of £5 a month will make a huge difference to people whom Brandon Trust supports, so that they can live the life they choose.

Jo Brand on behalf of Swindon Charity Brandon Trust


No turkey for us

On the Menu page of the Advertiser of Friday, December 6 it said, “Turkey or not”. I know in my house and those of lots of vegetarians and vegans, it will definitely not be.

Christmas is meant to be about compassion and love, and for millions of turkeys and other animals, birds and fish it is a mass slaughter. Animal welfare societies are trying so hard to get CCTV into slaughter houses but as usual Owen Paterson and DEFRA are against this.

I have seen much footage of secret filming in slaughterhouses, one of the worst being a newborn lamb suckling its mother as she was slaughtered. It’s barbaric in this day and age.

I know many people think of us who care about animals and choose not to eat them as strange. But as Albert Einstein said: “The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.”

S Giles, Bodiam Drive, Swindon


Labour? No thanks

In a recent letter, M J Warner lauds Ed Milliband with the statement: “He is changing the world from the Opposition; think what he could do in government”.

If the last Labour government’s 13 years in power is anything to go by I would rather not “think” what he could do.

Increase the population by another three million as Tony and Gordon succeeded in doing, creating the chaos we are now seeing in our overstretched hospitals, schools etc? Fight another pointless war in Iraq?

Leave the country with more mountains of debt that we will all be paying off for decades?

Sorry M Warner, that sort of government we can well do without.

Steve Burrell, Crispin Close, Lower Stratton, Swindon


I know UKIP well

In my follow-up letter to Steve Thompson, “What UKIP stand for”, of Tuesday, December 10, I am not ignorant of UKIP’s policies, as John Short likes to believe.

It’s because I know what their views and policies are that I don’t vote UKIP, not ignorance.

Does the word ignorance extend to the 73 per cent who voted against UKIP in a by-election in Eastleigh earlier this year?

Why would I, as someone whose views would be regarded as left-wing, vote for or support a political party (UKIP) that has right-wing views and ideas?

Martin Webb, Swindon Road, Swindon