MLA praises 'political courage' of Oxfordshire council

<p>MLA chief Roy Clare&#39;s description of Oxfordshire council&#39;s proposals to stop funding nearly half its libraries as &quot;political courage&quot; has provoked an astonished response from campaigners.</p><p>Oxfordshire last week announced proposals to cease funding 20 of 43 libraries in the county, in which the constituencies of both culture minister Ed Vaizey and prime minister David Cameron are based. The remaining libraries are being offered for communities to take over and run themselves.</p><p>Oxfordshire is one of the councils participating in the Future Libraries Programme being run by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council in conjunction with the Local Government Association. In a press statement Clare approved Oxfordshire&#39;s stance, saying that &quot;in many cases, where the evidence is robust, it is appropriate for tough decisions to be taken about the distribution of library service-points, noting that many buildings are costly to maintain and often serve comparatively few people.&quot;</p><p>He added: &quot;Library services need to follow new homes and adapt to changes in town-centres that reflect new consumer habits and economic circumstances...I welcome the local political courage that is involved in reaching decisions that might be unpopular in the short-term, provided they are in the long term interests of people who need library services.&quot;</p><p>But Clare&#39;s comments provoked comment from library campaigners, with Desmond Clarke saying he thought it &quot;an extremely odd statement for the MLA to put out given the level of cuts in Oxfordshire.&quot; He added: &quot;It does seem extraordinary that a council participating in the Future Libraries programme should be cutting this number of libraries. The programme is supposed to lead to an improvement in the public library service.&quot;</p><p>Clarke warned it was people in rural and suburban areas who would lose out in the proposed new library structures. He said: &quot;The MLA has become a lame duck and whatever noises they are trying to make [to councils] they are clearly not having any influence or coming up with imaginative solutions.&quot;</p><p>Library consultant Frances Hendrix commented Oxfordshire&#39;s proposals seemed &quot;more than salami slicing for libraries and more like taking a random bite out of an apple&quot;.</p><p>Oxfordshire&#39;s move comes after other councils - including Gloucestershire, Leeds, North Yorkshire and Buckinghamshire - also announced proposals for radical cuts in their library services. Over 25 councils have now proposed reductions in their service, with cuts in libraries, opening hours or paid staff.</p><p>Swindon library campaigner Shirley Burnham said: &quot;I was born in Oxford. The mere thought of Oxford and Oxfordshire being subject to such philistinism frankly appals. If they sink, arguably the most splendid cradle of culture south of Watford, the rest sink with it. God help us.&quot;</p>