<i>IoS</i> letters, emails &amp; online postings (23 January 2011)

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The Independent Online

In Gloucestershire, the county council proposes to slash the library service budget by 43 per cent, with the closure of 11 libraries ("Overdue! The fight to save our libraries begins", 19 January). Their only hope is to be run and funded by the community (some in our most deprived areas) or to cut opening times to as little as three hours a week. A further 18 libraries, some of the most used among them, will have to reduce services. Mobile libraries will be withdrawn.

The proposed demolition derby will apparently save £2.5m – 2 per cent of the amount the council aims to recoup – but at the expense of a well-used and widely beneficial service.

Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries recently presented a petition signed by over 10,600 people to the council, a campaign that has united young and old, rich and poor, from across our county and the political spectrum. The success of the petition, which has forced a full council debate and vote on the issue, could be seen as a model of David Cameron's Big Society pledge to "take power from politicians and give it to people". It remains to be seen if Gloucestershire's Tory-led county council will vote in favour of a review, or if the Big Society functions only as a fig-leaf for the dismantling of a valuable public service.

As a Shadow Cabinet member, Ed Vaizey urged the then Culture Secretary, Andy Burnham, to intervene in planned library cuts in the Wirral, or he would be "ignoring his responsibilities as secretary of state". I await Mr Vaizey's decision to act on Gloucestershire's case. Or do we have another case of a minister who seems to have left his convictions behind on entering office?

Demelza Jones

Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

Your libraries report illustrates the low value placed on learning and self-betterment in contemporary British culture, especially when that self-improvement is publicly funded. Over the past few months, all my online purchases of secondhand books – I live in Poland – have been supplied from ex-library stock. But why did Sunderland Public Libraries dispose of David Jenkins's autobiography The Calling of a Cuckoo? Did the local connections of the former Bishop of Durham carry no weight? Have our libraries lost all sense of what is important or is it just a matter of the number of loans, and the primitive and philistine culture of market forces?

L J Atterbury

Szydlowo, Poland

Pandas are not exclusively vegetarian, but will eat carrion if they can get their chops around it ("Panda power!", 16 January). They just have good PR.


posted online

No amount of cyclists' precautions or high-visibility aids will overcome drivers' perceptions that large metal vehicles travelling at speed pose a real threat to them, whereas cyclists pose no threat at all (Laura Pelling, Letters, 16 January). Only stricter enforcement by the courts will remind drivers that cyclists, like pedestrians, should be given right of way and extra consideration, as anything less may be fatal – but only to the cyclist.

T Golux


The DayGlo colours of high-visibility clothing need UV light to work, and do not have the same effect at night. Even during the day, we're becoming lost in a sea of hi-vis. A recent Australian study found that drivers just don't "see" hi-vis. It is not designed for long-range warning, and Laura Pelling (Letters) is right: lights are where this is important. But only 2-7 per cent of cyclist fatalities could be down to lack of lights. Something is drastically going wrong with our road system: to blame the victim is a nonsense.

Dan Cook


In the coalition agreement, the Tories and Lib Dems promised to pilot discount fuel in remote rural areas – a promise Danny Alexander reiterated in his speech to the Scottish Lib Dem conference in October. Now they are reneging. The UK Treasury is set to collect an additional £2bn in tax from North Sea oil revenues this year, on top of the £10bn previously forecast. Scotland's wealth from North Sea oil should be used to help its people and businesses, rather than used to fill the hole in Treasury coffers.

Alex Orr


The US's most senior CSI warns Britain that "handing over forensic science responsibilities to an untested privatised system will have 'serious repercussions'" ("CSI chief condemns forensic cuts", 9 January). But the private sector in the UK has a strong track record of investing in research, technology and skills; as a result, police forces' access to world-class science has increased. A key measure of this is the average time taken to return a DNA profile from a crime scene exhibit. In England and Wales it is three days; in the US and Germany six weeks. This means criminals can be apprehended more quickly.

David Richardson

Chief executive. LGC

Teddington, Middlesex

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Letters to the Editor, Independent on Sunday, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5HF; email: sundayletters@independent.co.uk (with address; no attachments, please); fax: 020 7005 2627; online: independent.co.uk/dayinapage/2011/January/23