Dear Literature Alliance Scotland
I refer to your letter of 13th July which follows your communication of 21st April.
I do understand the concerns that you express and it is a matter of deep regret to everyone at Argyll and Bute Council that, like all Scottish councils, due to significant reductions in our funding we are simply no longer able to do all that our communities want us to. The context in which councils have been forced to make very difficult choices has been well publicised and is a matter of fact.
It is important to point out that before making any decisions the council carried out an extensive consultation on Service Choices, which attracted a very high level of response. Although the views expressed during this consultation were, of course, listened to and taken on board where they could be, it was simply not possible to reject all of the savings options.
However, the budget ultimately agreed by council managed to mitigate a large number of the savings options consulted on. It reflected a significant priority given to young people’s services and managed to save over 100FTE jobs. The options which were rejected minimised the impact on teachers, classroom assistants, pupil support assistants, janitors, technicians and others. Unfortunately, changes to library services were areas that had to be looked at. At this stage, any option rejected means that another one must be taken in its place.
That said, libraries will remain in Argyll and Bute schools. Working with Head Teachers and other education staff, we are looking at finding different solutions for the schools in our communities, looking at all aspects including timetabling, handling book stock, and how the library facilities and resources in our schools can be used in the best ways to continue to support pupils’ learning. This will include closer working with our public library service to assist with resourcing and particular initiatives. We are taking these steps so that our pupils will be able to continue to use the library facilities in our schools. As part of the budget setting process, the council has also been able to avoid any community library closures and have invested in new community library services on Mull and on Tiree which will operate from the respective schools.
I would repeat our regret at the position in which this council, like so many others, finds itself as a result of significantly reduced funding. However, that regret is matched by our commitment to mitigating as much as possible the impact of the reduced funding, to look for new ways of working and to continue to do as much as we are able to do for our communities.
Councillor Dick Walsh (Council Leader)
Argyll & Bute Council