Highlands and Islands Greens have today denounced The Highland Council’s planned closure of libraries and the Floral Hall in Inverness, as part of the Council’s budgetary savings proposals.
Neil Hornsby, Highlands and Islands Greens’ campaigns co-ordinator, said:
“It is inconceivable that the Lib.Dem-led Highland Council can be contemplating closing libraries – they are the foundation of civilisation. Scotland’s literary heritage came about through a love of books, and how do most children and adults get to read books – through libraries. It is crucial that babies and toddlers grow up with books. Closing libraries is discriminatory against poorer families, who may not be able to afford to buy books.
“The Floral Hall is the jewel-in-the-crown. It costs a paltry £115,000 a year to run – the same as The Highland Council’s Director of Finance’s annual salary. Instead, its excellence should be advertised far and wide. How many of the thousands of visitors arriving at Invergordon are encouraged to visit the Hall? Judging by the many overseas visitors coming to Inverewe, the Floral Hall would be a major draw. To close it would be a travesty, and not least for the wonderful service it provides for adults with learning disabilities.
“The Council’s financial priorities are now laid bare for all to see. Closing libraries and the Floral Hall would save about £500,000. Yet in January this year the Highland Council merrily coughed up a phenomenal £1·25 million loan to the applicant of a planning application related to the business park at Inverness Airport. (1) Furthermore, the loan was apparently approved by the Council prior to the Planning Committee’s discussion of the application. We wrote to Provost Jimmy Gray, challenging him to explain the Council’s justification for the loan. Outrageously, he refused point blank to do so.
“Maybe there is a case for trimming budgets. Highland Greens recommend that The Highland Council make a start by severely cutting back on its £13·2 million roads maintenance budget, which it only plans to reduce by £400,000. This example plainly shows that, for all its supposed concerns for the environment, the Lib.Dems blatantly prioritise roads way above libraries. They should also significantly cut back the Council’s eight senior officials’ salaries, who each receive in excess of £100,000 annually.”
(1)See the record of the Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey Planning Applications Committee’s meeting on Tuesday 19 January 2010 (item 3).