Library truths

There have been two items in your paper urging the public to “Have your say about libraries.”

This is the council’s consultation about the future of our libraries.

It is now generally accepted that “consultation” in council-speak just means the Cabinet has decided what the reduced budget will be for the library service and how this will be achieved.

But, because the Government requires the public be engaged in the process, they will gather library-lovers’ comments and throw them in the bin and tick the relevant box to show they have “consulted.”

Apparently the plan seems to be to use as many volunteers and as few qualified staff as possible to run our libraries, and perhaps just volunteers for some of the smaller libraries with reduced opening hours.

It would seem that members of the Cabinet don't know what functions libraries fulfill. If they did they would know volunteers can be a valuable supplement but cannot substitute for a full time service from trained and really knowledgeable staff.

Walcot Library is being held up as an example of what volunteers can do. It is “run” by volunteers in the Community Shop which has taken over the library premises and there is minimal trained library involvement. Since 2007 book issues at Walcot Library have dropped from 16,269 to 1,795 in 2011/12, which seems to prove volunteers do not have the time, dedication, and knowledge to run a library. Libraries are not just stacks of books and computers. They are storehouses of knowledge.

One important duty of the library staff is to guide users in seeking out this knowledge.

Volunteers are part-time, often transient, and lacking in knowledge. They can assist paid staff but they cannot replace them. I am told someone at the Walcot Library said you could get rid of the books and just have computers in the new Walcot Library!

Computers are a tool for gaining knowledge, just as books are, and it is good to use them together. Incidentally, many East Walcot and Parks still have no computer skills and library staff spend a lot of time guiding them through the basics.

I cannot see computers replacing books; books can be handled lovingly and mean something in themselves.

I wonder how many of the Cabinet ever read a book or go into a library?

Sherry Waldon, Kingswood Avenue, Swindon


No building here

Open letter to Mr Buckland It is with astonishment that I have noted information circulating, regarding a planning application to develop the agricultural and green field site on Priors Hill, Wroughton.

Can I remind you that any application to build on Priors Hill would be outside the local plan, outside the policy of the parish council and outside the settlement boundary?

That field is bordered by the conservation area and can be viewed from the High Street which takes the eye up to the Ridgeway and the Marlborough Downs, an area of outstanding natural beauty.

It has restricted access and leads to a narrow road. Priors Hill is the old part of Wroughton history and needs to be protected for future generations.

It also acts as a soak away for water running down from the fields leading to the Ridgeway.

The field has a designated and signposted footpath across its centre which the public use daily and it supports and wildlife from Clouts Wood and Kings Farm Wood, owned by Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, Swindon Borough Council and supported by Wroughton Parish Council We are, as a community, dedicated to keeping Wroughton looking and feeling a village rather than developers wishing to chip away at the edges and turning it into a town.

As we have a huge site at Wichelstowe which has seen only 700 homes built, despite having planning permission for 4,500 since 2006 with full infrastructure ready and waiting, this would seem to be the ideal place to build.

We do understand the need for more housing but no houses at all have been built at West and Middle Wichel lying on a former green field site in the parish of Wroughton.

We feel sure our parish councillors who, fortunately, are a dedicated body of local people and are always working towards protecting the village environment for the future, along with Swindon Borough Council’s local plan will be in opposition to this scheme.

Name and address supplied


Railway gaffe

I’m sure there’s going to be worse gaffes, but to me this is the worst so far this year. I read in the Independent On Sunday, the chief executive of the lobbying party, High Speed Rail Industry Leaders Group said: “The physically disabled, the unemployable, and former prisoners should build the £42.6bn High Speed 2 railway.”

He went on to say the French had used nearly 1,000 disadvantaged people to build the Rhone-Rhine line.

This is not totally correct. The French L.G.V project ensured 12 per cent of all jobs were awarded to younger jobseekers, the chronic unemployed and minimum wage earners, which is a much different ideology. Putting my thoughts about the HS2 project to one side, I think the French had it spot on.

I find it somewhere between ironic and sad, having recently seen the film The Railway Man. It’s a true story of a Japanese prisoner of war who worked on the Burma-Siam railway during the Second World War. Scotsman Eric Lomax, who endured much torture, finally meets his Japanese tormentor on the River Kwai bridge,after nearly 50 years, who he forgives.

William Abraham, Rodbourne, Swindon


Hunting opposed

The RSPCA would like to correct points raised by A Holman-Baird in the letter “Ban cars before stopping hunts.”

They refer to the poll which shows 80 per cent believe fox hunting should not be made legal again and say that this was unlikely to be conducted within the inner city. The poll actually showed 80 per cent of rural dwellers believe it should not be made legal again – exactly the same percentage as that of urban dwellers who do not support hunting. Finally, hunting is not selective, as the writer claims.

It does not distinguish between sick or healthy foxes and there is no data to support the idea that hunts only remove the sick and injured animals.

Sophie Wilkinson, RSPCA Regional Media Manager, West Sussex