I am really saddened that Margaret Martin cancelled the meeting on December 1st. This was a perfect opportunity to have an open discussion about the future of the library and for a democratic decision to be made by the Friends group about what actions the group as a whole decides to take. I would have welcomed the opportunity to share my plan with the Friends group, however Margaret would not let me put it on the agenda.
I am equally upset that she has circulated a letter which is a gross misrepresentation of what my plan is, if the meeting had not been cancelled I could have discussed it with the group and any other residents who chose to attend.
In summary, the plan would see ALL of the existing services to residents retained, and in addition the library would become a community hub, open longer hours, with a toilet available for public use, refreshments available, a meeting room for the community, and a lot more community information and support available. Groups would be encouraged to use the space and activities would be arranged so that the space sees much more community engagement than it currently does and it would be available after school for children.
The Volunteers Network community interest company (CIC) I established over a year ago to promote community activity would manage the project alongside the community hub we currently run in Eastbourne to avoid a duplication in governance, however the ‘Pevensey Community Hub and Library’ would have its own identity and funding. I am currently the only director of the CIC, but other directors from Eastbourne and Pevensey would be appointed if this project was to go ahead.
The benefits of this CIC managing both projects are that the networks with community organisations that Eastbourne Volunteers have established and also the information resources can both be shared with the new hub, and volunteers and young people on work experience etc. could also work across both sites. I believe sharing resources in this way would be beneficial for Pevensey. We have very limited time to develop a plan, and using an existing CIC and bringing the added resources of our Eastbourne community hub into Pevensey seems to be the best solution available and also the best chance we have to save our library.
The proposal is for a staff member paid for twenty hours a week, this is MORE than is currently on offer at the library, the only difference is that they will be employed by the CIC rather than ESCC and the role would involve more varied work than the current librarian would do. This person would need to coordinate the project as a whole, apply for grants, manage volunteers and develop the project. Volunteers could help in this role, but would not necessarily be needed in order for the plan to proceed (however I do think the more volunteers that come forward the more we can achieve and I would be actively encouraging this).
I have worked tirelessly as a volunteer for the Eastbourne and Pevensey Communities over the last three years and have always done my best for the communities I serve. There are no other plans on the table which would save the library, despite the fact that the consultation specifically asks for communities to come up with an alternative plan to keep the library open. I have spent the last couple of weeks trying to create a workable plan (since the PPC meeting and a meeting held with Stephen Potter in my role as a Pevensey Councillor, both of which have offered the possibility for this plan to be drawn up). It has been a lot of work on top of the volunteering role I already have, and the plans are not yet fully formed as there is a lot of discussion and negotiation that still needs to take place with ESCC. The first step was to discuss the possibility at the working party on Friday. The next step is to consult with residents, continue to research the model and start to discuss the fine detail of the plan with ESCC. The plan will be presented to the Parish Council, as they would be paying a substantial part of the costs, and then I will arrange a public meeting when we have a full, workable plan. Hopefully at that point ESCC representatives will also be able to be there so that we can all answer any questions the public have.
The ESCC representatives have already stated at the meeting on Friday that the plan is realistic, so I am hopeful that we can come to an arrangement that will save the library.
My bottom line is that the services available to residents needs to remain exactly what is on offer at the moment. That is non-negotiable as far as I’m concerned, the negotiation will be in how this is provided, how it is paid for, what systems are used etc. There is a lot of detail to sort out with ESCC, hence my sense of urgency as I believe the best chance we have of making this plan work is to have it fully formed and presented to ESCC in February. We can negotiate for more time if we have to, however I think this approach is likely to give us the best outcome, which is why I and others are working hard to put a plan together.
Over the next few days we will start consulting with residents, we first need to find the best way of distributing the plan in its entirety (as it stands at the moment).
In the meanwhile, I think it is still important to encourage everyone to fill in the consultation and fight for the library as this will all put more pressure on ESCC which can only be a good thing in terms of our negotiation for a continued service.
As one ESCC representative said in the meeting on Friday, it shouldn’t be underestimated how much support ESCC will still have to provide in order to keep the existing service, so whilst they may not be being asked for money, the equivalent in support will still be substantial. The more pressure we as a community can bring to bear the better.
I would also appreciate residents support with this project, as I have already stated it is a lot of work to put a plan like this together, let alone learn library systems! If anyone wants to get in touch or get involved they can email me at email@example.com
Messages of support will be gratefully received, it is all evidence that this community wants to save our library (and could help with funding bids)!
You can see the plan in full (there is still work to do so on it so it is not yet a complete plan) at our website www.pevenseyvolunteers.co.uk on the save the library page.
Helen Burton (speaking in a personal capacity and not in my role as a Parish Councillor).