7:30am Thursday 9th December 2010
We could have filled our letters pages several times over this week with attacks on Oxfordshire County Council.
Some of the flak aimed in its direction has to do with issues over which it has no control. For example, County Hall was the target of a student demonstration over tuition fees.
Council leader Keith Mitchell nevertheless appeared to be relishing that particular battle and his outspoken remarks about the students and school pupils and their teachers and parents has drawn much fire the county’s way.
It was going to take something to deflect students’ fire away from the Liberal Democrats but Mr Mitchell achieved it, at least here in Oxfordshire The county council’s handling of the libraries issue has also provoked a storm. We do not recall receiving so many letters on one issue for a long time.
Again, Mr Mitchell’s comments have done nothing to deflect the fire. Indeed, he as much as said that it was not worth anyone protesting because these cuts were unavoidable due to the state of the country’s finances.
There is no question that cuts are unavoidable because of the financial situation, but that is not to say that the county council could not handle the issue a lot better.
Its decision to issue the news about cuts to libraries and youth centres on a Friday was a clear indication that it expected the announcement to play badly. Every exponent of PR knows you issue bad news on a Friday when most of the week’s papers have gone.
However, in only giving us a glimpse of a small portion of the cuts we are facing, it has not only concentrated media attention on the libraries, it is also not serving the public well.
How can we judge the rights and wrongs of the cuts proposed for the library and youth service when we have yet to see what is proposed for the likes of social care and education?
We suspect that the impact on these areas will be huge and the anger about libraries will pale into insignificance when compared to the reaction to what is proposed in particular for social services.
In any event, we should be able to see the whole picture so that we can debate properly what is to be done in Oxfordshire to keep us within our budgets.
There are no easy choices, but the council tax payers of Oxfordshire should at least have a say in those choices rather than simply be presented with a fait accompli and told that nothing they say or do will change it.
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