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THIS WEEK ** BREAKING: Eastbourne Herald put up for sale


COMMUNITY The One and Only Tom Fitzpatrick is Back: Ocean View, Pevensey Bay


LETTERS Christine Fenner and Jo Belcher: Support us and the pond and the village of Westham

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How much does this Parish Council care about our library? Not enough to significantly fund it, apparently.—Margaret Martin, Friends of Pevensey Bay Library, 31 January 2017

Yesterday evening (30 January) the Parish Council voted down financial support for our library despite their previous decision in November to support funding in principle.

Why? Well, four of the councillors thought the proposals financially viable and five didn’t. Despite the detailed financial forecasts in front of them and a risk management assessment, no reasons for their opinion were provided. Had they all read the detailed papers? Possibly not. At least one of them, who I won’t name, didn’t even bring the detailed background papers or notes to the meeting.

What the public did have to listen to was the maths of one particular councillor introducing a raft of new information on the overall increase in council tax this year, to which none of us were allowed to respond!

Yes, there will be a large rise in council tax this year to fund policing, social care and other valuable services. Why is this? Because the government is cancelling the funding of local authority services from central sources – i.e from income tax, corporation tax and VAT – a sure fire vote winner at the next general election, or so they think.

Central government has reduced the amount of income tax that most people pay by changing tax allowances. For example, in 1992, a lower 20% tax rate was introduced, followed by a 10% band in 1999 for those on the lowest income. The threshold for paying the higher rate of 40% has been increased from £20,700 in 1990 to £33,500 in 2017.

Additionally, since the 2008 recession corporate tax received by central government has gone down steadily.

Wouldn’t it be great if public services were free, but they are not. Everybody knows that valuable public services need to be paid for. The government is gambling that they can successfully slash public services through switching the costs from central to local taxation and thereby make local authorities the whipping boys for the unpopular impact of withdrawing services.

If the library isn’t funded from central government sources then it will need funding from council tax just like all the other public services that will now need to be paid for locally. It’s a bit like giving up your car and using a taxi. Painful when you have to get cash out of your purse to pay the fare, cheaper overall.

And that’s the point that the parish council completely missed because no-one was able to respond to the partial new information on council tax tabled by one councillor at the last minute.

He may have thought the detailed work on costs and income projections provided in both proposals were not feasible but it would have been helpful if he (and others) had said why, instead he merely distracted the council with information on council tax taken out of context.

Pevensey Parish Council, look at the bigger picture!

The library currently costs the tax payer roughly £35,000 per year. As an illustration, divide that by the 3,800 tax base in Pevensey and Westham and it comes to £9.20 each per year!

Compare that with our proposal whereby replacing the existing tiers of paid management with volunteers results in total costs of £28,200 in the first year (with set up costs) reducing to £24,500 thereafter. This reduces the costs to £7.40 per head for the first year, and to £6.40 thereafter part of which would in any case be paid by business income.

Not only would tax payers be paying less for the library, but the whole community would have benefited from an improved service – better promotion, better book stock, and live events.

Rather than shooting the library down with incomplete financial information introduced in discussion at the last minute when nobody was able to respond, it would have done better if the Parish Council had focused on the £30,000 a year that it is currently paying for litter bin and dog pooh bin emptying. Simply halving the cost of this by changing contracts would provide £15,000 per year, part of which could be used to fund the library with all the community benefits that this offers.

I asked the Parish Council what did they want to do in the face of austerity policies aimed at closing the library.Be responsible for decline in our community or boost it for generations to come? Well I’ve got my answer.

My final comment is, thank goodness for a sensible Chairman, who showed some foresight with regard to the proceedings.

He abstained from the vote for good reasons but was able, after the decision on the precept had been made, to keep the library proposals afloat by offering a £2,000 initial grant for whichever proposal is supported by the county council. It’s not enough but it’s a start, and we’ll be back.

FPBL have put a detailed case to the county council that Pevensey Bay needs a library and that some continued funding is required.

That case will be considered by ESCC on 6 March with the Parish Council’s own objections to the proposed closure of the library. The county council has publicly stated that there will be sufficient time after that date for alternative arrangements to be set up.

The Parish Council has kicked the ball back to the county council for the time being which is perhaps as it should be, but I suspect before long that ball will be back at the feet of the Parish Council again, and if this happens we will be hoping for a better result and more careful discussion.

Margaret Martin, FPBL