Pullman's spat with council over library cuts, the sequel


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The Independent Culture

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the library, an ongoing war of words has reignited between Oxfordshire County Council and the author Philip Pullman over proposed cutbacks.

The council leader, Keith Mitchell, has said that, if he does not cut his library budget, the county's provision of care to the elderly and disabled would need to be slashed instead. Pullman vigorously opposes this view.

Mr Mitchell said of Pullman and his fellow campaigners yesterday: "They are luvvies. If they ever needed social care they would be able to afford it [privately]."

In an article this week, Mr Mitchell said the likes of Pullman "refused to accept" that restoring funding to libraries would lead to deeper cuts to other services, most likely social care and highways.

Mr Mitchell has said the council had ringfenced certain "essential" budgets such as firefighting, but that central government policy restricted his control over the county's education budget. He said he now had few options regarding how to introduce cost savings of £119m over the next four years.

Pullman responded to reports yesterday that his campaigning would lead to social services cuts in Oxfordshire. "I think Keith Mitchell is factually wrong," he said. "I don't choose to cut services to the elderly one bit. If I had the time and the accounting assistance I could find many things to cut.

"But I haven't. He, or rather the council, has a statutory duty to provide a library service and they aren't doing it. But I don't want to get into a slanging match with Keith Mitchell because he's not worth it."