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Halifax Central Library

From David Cant

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

If you look at the Halifax Courier website (be patient - its clunky) they are featuring supporting letters for the Cabinet's plans to move the Central library to a site next to Square Chapel. Why knock down a 30 year old building, which serves its wider community well?

The Council's Consultation, which runs till 30 September, has the answer - redevelop the whole site with an in-town shopping centre. This misguided plan is supported by a few senior Council officers, a few prominent retailers and property finaciers and developers. The most prominent letter on the Courier site is from a Phillip Hellawell - check him out here and you'll see why he is so much in favour of the scheme.

Look at the alternatives arguments on the DBOL site, complete the questionnaire and tell our representatives once and for all to leave Halifax Central Library where it is!

From Cllr Tim Swift

Thursday, 30 August 2012

For the sake of balance, may I also suggest that people also read the Council's consultation document on the website and, if they have further queries, also read through the attached background documents?

Opinions about this important issue are of course going to be many and various, but we have tried in this process to put the evidence behind these proposals in the public domain to let people make an informed choice.


From David Cant

Monday, 3 September 2012

Sadly 'evidence' isn't quite the right word. By all means look on the Council's website, but remember the Lab-Lib coalition have adopted the idea of knocking down Northgate House and the Library to provide space for a large retail development. Their 'evidence' is strongly biased in favour of following that through, in the face of substantial opposition.

Even the Tories, who proposed this idea in the past, are now against it.....

From Anne Kirker, Don't Bulldoze our Library

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Open Letter sent to Calderdale Councillors concerning the results of the Ipsos Mori Report and the Cabinet's press release

On 28 November you will be asked to vote on one of the most important and controversial decisions taken by CMBC in recent years – namely the proposal to demolish the existing Central Library and Archive, to be replaced by new facilities near the Square Church and Piece Hall. The arguments for and against this proposal are well known and have been discussed endlessly for four or five years.

What has been consistently demonstrated over that time is that the people of Calderdale want the CL&A to stay put. Until now, that is. On their third (or is it fourth?) attempt at consultation, the Cabinet have finally collected some data that suggest some support for their plans. Armed with these data, they are pushing ahead with one of the most controversial, costly and risky proposals any if us can remember.

But what faith can we place in the data?

Cabinet's entire case rests on the claim that 39% of responses to the Representative Survey, part of the Ipsos MORI consultation, were in favour of the plans. By IM's own calculation, there is a margin of error on this figure of 3.5%. In other words, the returns indicate that there is a probability of 95% that the number in favour of the plans is between 35.5% and 42.5%.

The numbers against the plans are not so clear. The clever wording of the two Options A & B left responders confused and unsure whether to vote for Option B or Neither of These. We were advised that a vote for Neither would be counted as a vote against Option A but it turns out that this was true only if the respondent said this in the comment box. It remains the case, however, that however you add up the figures, rather more people in the Representative Survey appear to favour Option A than Option B.

How can this be reconciled with all the earlier expressions of public opinion below?

  • 2009 June 16,500 name petition against demolition of CL&A

  • 2009 Aug CMBC three options poll 95% in favour of retention of CL&A at Northgate

  • 2011 June Courier Online Poll. 72% against any move of CL&A

  • 2012 Feb 1,435 name "2 Hour Petition" against demolition of CL&A
  • 2012 Feb CMBC Consultation – withdrawn 85.0% for keeping the CL&A Citizens' Panel 59.5% for keeping the CL&A

To begin to understand this apparent U turn, you need to delve into the data, in particular, into the full 141 page report from Ipsos MORI.

Firstly, the results have been weighted, to be representative of the demography of Calderdale, with regard to age, sex, employment status, electoral ward and any other factor you can think of. The argument goes that in the Under 25 age range, only 30 people responded out of the 600 Under 25s who would be expected to have received one of the 5000 randomly circulated questionnaires. (In Calderdale, 12% of adults are Under 25.) In total, around 1500 questionnaires were returned, of which 180 (12%) should have been from Under 25s. In order to give fair voice to the Under 25s, therefore, Ipsos MORI have assumed that the 150 who didn't respond agree with the 30 who did, and so assigned 180 votes to them. The converse of this is that in the Over 65 age range, 494 replies were received, representing 33% of all responses. But, because only 20% of the adults in Calderdale are actually Over 65, these responses have been counted as only 299. Thus every Under 25 response carries the same weight as 10 Over 65 responses.

This manipulation might be justifiable for the Open Consultation where respondents are largely self-selecting but, in the Representative Survey, 5000 forms were sent at random to 5000 households (by postcode). The statisticians must have calculated that this number is big enough to ensure the responses will be representative of the 200,000 people in Calderdale. Therefore, the forms must have reached a representative number of Under 25s, Over 65s and everything in between. The low response from one group means simply that most of them were not sufficiently bothered to reply. (The form is in their hands, on the kitchen table, complete with reply paid envelope.) Why should the votes of those who did reply be enhanced to make up the votes of those who didn't? (And not just tweaked – multiplied by 6!) The message here is that there is no need to respond because we'll make up your response for you . . .

Why does this matter? Because younger people are more likely to favour a new CL&A, whereas older people see no need for a new CL&A. Some fairly crude calculations, to try to see what happens if this weighting were removed, suggest that support for Option A would reduce by around 4% and support for Option B would increase by around 3%.

(It should be noted that the numbers quoted above are approximate – we do not have access to the raw data and so are limited to working back from what Ipsos MORI have chosen to publish. And only one form of weighting has been questioned - not gender, nor electoral ward, nor employment status.)

What credence can we give to Cabinet's claim that there is substantial support for Option A?

If this is so, then there is also substantial support for Option B (or Neither), even on the Representative Survey.

Delving even deeper into the Ipsos MORI Report, we find other interesting information, which the Cabinet and Directors have chosen not to publicise.

Considering the Representative Survey, which is the only data Cabinet will consider, how did people respond to some of the broader questions asked around the CL&A?

Question 14 asked whether we agreed with, amongst other things
Moving the CL&A will help to improve the Piece Hall area Agree 29% Disagree 25%
Moving the CL&A means more footfall thru shops Agree 26% Disagree 27%

Question 17 asked whether we agreed with, amongst other things
CL&A should stay where they are Agree 31% Disagree 22%
Moving CL&A will improve HX town centre Agree 28% Disagree 27%
A new modern CL&A should be built Agree 27% Disagree 28%

These figures seem to contradict the views expressed about Options A and B and, indeed, contradict each other. Of course, this could result from the margins of error discussed above but, at the very least, they would seem to suggest some confusion in the minds of the respondents. They certainly do not indicate majority support for the Cabinet's proposals.

A final thought to bear in mind when considering the Representative Survey. The total number of responses amount to less than 1.0% of the people of Calderdale. The number supporting Option A are considerably less than half of one percent of the people of Calderdale. Ipsos MORI may be able to argue that this sample is representative – but would you believe them? Councillors might recall that the DBOL Campaign generated over 16,500 signatures opposed to the CL&A move, three years ago – or 8.3%. Do these latest figures outweigh that petition?

Then we come to the Open Consultation, where everybody across Calderdale was asked to access the questionnaire, fill it in and send it back (either on paper, or on line). Over 1250 people did just that, almost as many as the 1496 that responded to the Representative Survey (out of 5000 distributed). It seems they were also wasting their time. Why? Because these 1256 are even more biased towards older, retired, people. Not only that, most of them visit Halifax, shop in Halifax, like Halifax, but, most damning of all, many of them actually use the Central Library - and some even use the Archives. What possible value could there be in their views on the future of Halifax Town Centre and the Central Library and Archives? Far better to listen to the 1015 people who never use the Archives but who know that they are not "Modern".

The Ipsos MORI report says "While this difference in the profile of the responses does not mean the responses to the open consultation are less important . . ."

Councillors should challenge Ipsos MORI or the Cabinet to table any evidence that any importance, let alone equal importance, has been attached to the Open Consultation responses.

The Ipsos MORI report also says "To reconcile the two opposing results from the representative sample survey and the open consultation, the profile of those who responded to each strand needs to be taken into account." They offer no suggestion, however, of how this should be done. In the Directors' Report prepared for the Cabinet, this conundrum is neatly solved by allocating 100% weighting to the Representative Survey and 0% to the Open Consultation.

But perhaps we should not feel too hard done by. Ipsos MORI also report the views of

  • 12 people who responded by writing to them
  • 15 responses from organisations in Calderdale, representing over 7000 members, including two major mosques
  • 5 responses from stakeholders
  • a petition with 1292 signatures
  • 3461 signed DBOL fliers

In each of these cases a large majority was opposed to Option A but, again, the Directors' Report assigns a weighting of 0% to them all.

Similar lip service is paid in the Directors' Report. "Whilst the results of Strand 3 [the Open Consultation] are useful, and should not be ignored, the mandate . . ." Perhaps these Directors should be asked to explain exactly what use has been made of these "useful results" and perhaps to demonstrate that they have not been ignored.

Overall it appears that there is support across Calderdale for both Option A and Option B. Which Option commands the most support depends on who is looking at the data – it is not clear cut. What is beyond question is that those who support Option B do so with far more conviction and fervour. Where responses are made spontaneously and voluntarily, without forms being circulated, support for keeping the CL&A exceeds support for moving it by 3 or 4 to 1, and has done so consistently for 3 years. Cabinet chooses to pay no attention to this conviction and fervour but Councillors might reflect that the people expressing these views are precisely those most likely to vote in the next Local Government elections.

Our message is that results of the Ipsos MORI consultation are far from conclusive. Please take the time to study the full report, and not just the headline figures selected by the Cabinet and Directors. Please do not ignore the views of the thousands of people who responded to the Open Consultation in a variety of ways. Even allowing for individuals responding in more than one format, the total numbers covered by responses to the Open Consultation must exceed 10,000, the vast majority opposed to Option A. Ipsos MORI designed the consultation to solicit all these responses, at a cost of around £60k. It would be a cynical waste of taxpayers' money to ignore them.

Any objective observer must conclude that support across Calderdale for Option A, whilst significant, is not overwhelming, nor substantial. This survey cannot provide a basis for CMBC going ahead with the Cabinet's proposals.

Please show the ratepayers of Calderdale that their elected Councillors are not simply cannon fodder controlled by the party whips, but have independent minds of their own.

Thank you for your time and patience.

Anne Kirker,

DBOL Coordinator

From David Cant

Saturday, 17 November 2012

You have about 10 days to contact your Calderdale councillor to stop them making the worst mistake in years!

Last week Cabinet voted to accept the recommendations of a Report from 2 Council Directors. They are going to get the full Council to vote on Wednesday 28th November for their wasteful scheme to replace Halifax Central Library. Why - they believe we need a new large retail site in the town centre.

All this has been backed up by a 'consultation exercise' which is meant to be representing all the adults of Calderdale. Sadly they couldn't just give people an easy choice - the 2 options were limiting and misleading. Even the results have been misinterpreted in the Directors' Report. If you look at the detail 58% said the central library was in a convenient place, 60% said they didn't want it moved.

Worse still, the estimates for refurbishing the 30-year-old library have escalated from under £1m in 2009, to about £6m in 2011 to over £9m now - even more expensive than the new build proposed for a restricted site next to Square Chapel. Unbelievable! So contact your concillor and persuade them to vote against this scheme!

From Mick Coughlan

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Should any folk think "Why should what happens in Halifax bother me, I'm 8 miles away" then bear in mind that the £10m that CMBC cabinet recommend spending will be paid for out of the Council Tax. So it affects us all - people of Todmorden too!

This is in addition to the £12m for converting Halifax's Piece Hall into an Italianate Square.

At a time of spending cuts this in my opinion is immoral.

See also

Hebweb Forum - Central Library Consultaion Con! Jan 2012)

Hebweb Forum - Central Library/Northgate House (Nov-Dec 2011)

HebWeb News - Council Releases Information on New Central Library (5 Dec 2011)

Calderdale website: Detailed information on the condition of both Northgate House and the Central Library and Archive buildings can be downloaded

HebWeb News - Central Library threat (22 Nov 2011)

HebWeb News - Don't Bulldoze Central Library Jan 2011

Hebweb Forum - Halifax Town Centre Regeneration (Feb 2011)

John Hargreaves' presentation on behalf of of the Halifax Civic Trust and Halifax Antiquarian Society (Jan 2011)

HebWeb News 2009 - Calderdale Central Library and Archive

Hebweb Forum - Demolition of Central Library and Archives building in Halifax (March-April 2009)

Don't Bulldoze our Library