Confusion surrounds the current legal position of Bagshot’s small village library. Surrey County Council forced through its so-called Community Partnered Library policy against all public opinion. This means relying on groups of local volunteers to run the library after all paid staff are made redundant. The policy stated that if ‘volunteers’ could not be found then the library would close, so the new recruits would be forced to work for free to replace paid staff or face losing their village library. SCC admitted that this policy does not save any money, therefore it was clearly an ideological policy aimed at sacking public servants and then closing libraries.
There was a group of volunteers ready to take over the library. The Friends of Bagshot Library had been volunteering alongside the paid staff for years. Unfortunately, in 2011 and 2012 the then county councillor stopped all communication with the Friends. He also stopped attending council meetings after he lost his driving licence for an aggravated drink-driving offence.
In 2013 another Conservative was elected as the local county councillor. Instead of engaging with the Friends, he proceeded to undermine and sideline them. Local people were led to believe that Windlesham Parish Council was taking over as the so-called volunteer group. This turned out to be false. The new county councillor, Mike Goodman, is also chairman of Conservative-dominated Windlesham Parish Council and appears to have used their facilities for his personal project.
Surrey County Council cannot confirm the name of the new group of ‘volunteers’ which will be taking over the library from 7 December 2013. They also do not know the names of the directors or beneficiaries or their contact details. There is no official record of any decision being made to turn over the library to this group of persons unknown. There is now great concern that Bagshot Library is being appropriated by local Conservative councillors, acting outside the authority of the parish council and duping people into working for free for their own private enterprise. The councillors themselves are not thought to be library users.
Local resident and library campaigner Richard Wilson, who was the Labour candidate for Surrey County Council in May 2013 said, “It is now clear that the transition to a so-called Community Partnered Library must be halted until this legal uncertainty is resolved. At the election I pledged, if elected, to save Bagshot Library. I call on Cllr Goodman to tell SCC to remove Bagshot Library from its hitlist of libraries set to lose their librarians. Even at this late stage it is not too late to abandon this awful policy and save our library.”
Surrey County Council has already lost one judicial review due to this dire policy. They seem set to make further legal errors and risk losing a public asset which is more than valued, it is loved, by the people of Bagshot.