Keith Mitchell CBE
I have been one of the County Council appointees to Focal since it was formed when the library was under threat of closure in 1997. I was the first Chairman when we prevented the closure of the library and raised £70,000 to move the library from its previous home in an unsatisfactory building to a refurbished Church House. We also committed to raising sufficient funds to pay for the Saturday morning opening and Focal has continued to fund Saturday opening since then.
I was succeeded as Chairman by Pat Cox and then by John Harper and then by Gail Cripps and all led Focal magnificently and maintained the funding for Saturday opening as well as encouraging use of the library and providing additional books and equipment when needed. John Cordingly served as Vice Chairman since the inception of Focal, providing wise counsel and continuity until finally resigning in 2016.
I was pleased to remain a member of the Executive but my other responsibilities, particularly as Leader of the County Council from 2001 to 2012, meant that I took a back seat during that time.
Focal Change of Gear
The County Council is facing very large cuts in its government funding as part of the necessary national economic recovery programme. I steered the council through the early years of these cuts while I was still Leader of the Council and oversaw the planned cuts in staffing that the smaller, “community libraries”, such as Adderbury, now face. The severity of the cuts continues and there is no possibility of regaining the planned funding cuts.
When this became clear and a number of members of the Focal Executive announced their intention to stand down at the 2012 AGM, John Cordingley asked me to return to the role of Chairman of Focal to lead the charity as it necessarily steps up a gear to plan for a much larger funding need.
On returning to the role of Chairman, I set the Focal Executive a two-part strategy:
(a) To step up our fund raising to continue to raise almost £3,000 per annum to pay for the Saturday opening and, in addition, to raise almost £6,000 per annum to replace the cut in council funding. This would enable us to have a library manager for all opening hours.
(b) To supplement the fund raising by building a team of volunteers to support the library manager.
Focal has now entered into an agreement with the County Council to maintain the existing opening hours, including the Saturday hours which have always been paid for by Focal. Under this agreement, from 1 April 2015, we have undertaken to pay to the County Council £8,946 pa in half yearly instalments. This will ensure we have a library manager whenever the library is open. In addition, we have undertaken to supply seven hours of volunteer time per week to support the library manager. From 1 April 2018, the annual payment rises to £9,660 due to inflation since 2015.
The agreement is a serious one and the Focal Executive is very conscious of the need to maintain fund raising so as to be able to afford a payment of £4,840 every six months. The need to maintain a pool of volunteers and to ensure we supply at least seven hours per week is also an important commitment.
The agreement can be terminated subject to six months’ notice on either side but termination would lead to an immediate reduction in opening hours and Focal is determined to ensure that does not happen, subject to the support of our local community in Adderbury, Milton and beyond.
Raising almost £10,000 year on year is a huge challenge but we have had a good year and have a substantial sum in the bank. However, we cannot afford to be complacent and we will continue to have to work hard to raise funds and to ensure the local community continues to support us.
During 2016, the County Council held a conference for all Friends’ Groups which John Osborne and I attended. This was very helpful and have us both a good picture of what other Groups are doing. Support from the County Council has been very positive and our thanks are due to James Hazelwood and Graham White both of whom have been very helpful to us.
Our registered charity no is 1070930.