Rochdale Liberal Democrats are backing staff and visitors in the campaign against closing Touchstones on Sundays and Mondays. The Liberal Democrats, the largest group on the Council will be opposing the proposed change. A change that will save the Council money in the tight budget.
Leader of the Liberal Democrats - Councillor Alan Taylor said, "To close this superb facility on Sundays and Mondays would be disastrous. The Council think that this is an easy option but it illustrates a complete lack of strategic, cultural vision. Touchstones is a reminder of our heritage and if the Council get away with closing it for 2 days a week. One of the strengths of this facility is that not only can residents see the Borough's historic collections but also see first class exhibitions from National museums and galleries on our doorstep. There are many things wrong with this Council's budget - I appreciate that difficult decisions will have to be made, but we will not tolerate any budget measure that affect the way Touchstones is run."
At a meeting of the Rochdale Township on Wednesday, the Leader of Rochdale Council admitted publicly that he had not been given sufficient information on this issue. Councillor Elwyn Watkins said, "This is a farce - for the Leader of the Council to admit that he does not know what's going on is simply unacceptable! This proposal should be withdrawn and the Council should apologise to staff and the users of Touchstones for the uncertainty that this has created."
Touchstones is the base for Rochdale's Boroughwide Arts and Heritage Service and home to four art galleries, a museum and a local studies library amongst many other things. Rochdale resident Dale Mulgrew said, "It is vital that Touchstones stays open for seven days a week - so that people of all ages can benefit from the educational advantages that it offers. Rochdale should look into investing more in our culture and heritage. Instead they continually look at taking the easy option. I would encourage everyone to write to their local Councillors and send them a clear message that we value Touchstones and want to see it remain open 7 days a week and continue the massive, positive role it plays in Rochdale life."
The threat to Touchstones is revealed in Line 16 of the Budget Saving Options for 2006/2007. The title of the proposed cut is "Reduction in Arts and Heritage". Councillor Alan Taylor said, "The Council is proposing these devastating cuts to save £60,000 - they hope the bulk of this saving will come from staff wages. The staff at Touchstones do an excellent job and how do this Council repay them? They threaten to cut their hours - the Liberal Democrats will stand up for the staff and the users of Touchstones and oppose this proposed cut. Rochdale should be moving forward, not back - if the Council make this cut it will put us back decades and educationally and culturally we cannot afford to do this."
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