On Monday Lisa, our trusty Nissan LEAF electric vehicle, conveyed me to Shebbear Village Hall for a pre-arranged meeting with my new Member of Parliament, Sir Geoffrey Cox KC:
However we were running very late after recording some videos at Roadford Lake earlier in the day. The queue was already too long by the time we got there, so Lisa then ferried me over to the Baxter Hall in Petrockstowe:
Amongst the other things that were laid out on the tables inside Baxter Hall was a petition to Devon County Council in support of their mobile library service, which is currently under threat. I signed it, as did a couple of dozen other people in the hall at the time.
Earlier today the West Devon Free Press email inbox received a letter supporting the same worthy cause. Here it is in full:
Dear Letters Editor,
While things are looking good for Plastic Free North Devon’s excellent toy library scheme, the same cannot be said for Devon County Council’s (DCC) mobile-library service (Seventh toy library unveiled at Saunton, 16 August).
Stephen Fry is surely bang on the button: ’The idea that such a beautiful, vital, simple service should be denied to future generations is heartbreaking’. In a county where, for example, just ONE BUS A WEEK links many North Devon villages represented by Torrington Rural’s Cllr Andrew Saywell to the area’s principal town of Barnstaple this is self-evidently so. It’s unclear, therefore, what the elected member means when he says ‘we have to look at how we deliver this [service] differently’. Either there’s a mobile library or there isn’t. Simples… (Celebs back mobile library campaign, 2 August).
Roger Croad speaks to DCC’s Public Health, Communities and Equality brief – like his colleague, Mr Saywell, he’s part of the council’s policy-making cabinet. In reference to the proposed closure of the library, Mr Croad recently told the Guardian newspaper: ‘People can get together rather than wait on a wet street corner…for a lumbering van to come round…once every three weeks’:
Did the elected member for Ivybridge think that Devon residents and voters – including his constituents – wouldn’t notice his arrogant sneering in the national press – or did he simply not care? Could anything fit more comfortably with his policy brief than a facility which serves often isolated communities equally, irrespective of wealth and transport options? That the sheer joy and relief of anticipating the arrival of the library perhaps helps mitigate loneliness, seems not to have occurred to Cllr Croad. A small financial price to pay for, amongst other positives, a clear public-health benefit across the age-range.
There is as yet no specified provision of ‘alternative services’, so here’s an idea: why not task Libraries Unlimited, the charity which has run the public library service since 2016, to canvass public opinion on options, using some of £217k cost of running the mobile service DCC is planning to hand the organisation?
19a Ellington Street
N.B. In her covering note Meg points out that she first sent her letter to the North Devon Gazette on Monday morning as an update to a previous letter, but they have yet to publish either.