SIR: It’s significant that the consultation (whether genuine or politically tactical) on the future of Hampshire’s library service states that the first of three options which are not being consulted on at this time is: “transfer(ring) Hampshire Libraries to a Trust Model. This is because Trust models are still in their infancy and the County Council would need to be convinced of their resilience and sustainability before considering Trusts as a potential option.”

This wording doesn’t altogether exclude such an eventual outcome while resurrecting the fundamental question about why the Council thought setting up the Hampshire Cultural Trust in 2014 offered an acceptable solution when it dismantled its own ‘Culture and Communities’ empire. Does the wording indicate an overdue, tacit admission that this Trust is not regarded as resilient or sustainable, having failed to live up to many of its inflated claims and recently lost its Arts Council grant-in-aid through complacency?

It’s worth recalling that Hampshire in 1974 was one of only four (out of 39) shire counties that created the capacity for taking a strategic role in cultural policy when the legal option first arose. It rapidly became recognised as a national leader in enlightened and effective arts and museums provision, working closely with the 13 district councils (including Portsmouth and Southampton until 1997), universities, cathedrals and other major institutions including the two Bournemouth orchestras and the Arts Council.

Over the quarter century following 1974 Hampshire played a vital strategic role, with minimal staffing costs, in securing the futures of theatres and drama companies (including the Public Inquiry that saved the Mayflower Theatre as a live performance venue), developing local arts centres in partnership with the Local Education Authority, fostering exhibitions, artists’ studios and public art, operating a regional arts marketing service, and creating and operating a rural village touring programme of music, drama, dance and film alongside major joint initiatives that led on to key developments such as the Anvil.

Local authorities’ enlightened practice in partnership with the voluntary sector has stood the test of time. The ‘trust’ model’s record is variable, often understandably internally focused. Closing libraries is a retrograde act. Investing in them and ensuring widespread access and availability is to invest in the people of Hampshire and their futures.

Christopher Gordon (County Arts Officer 1977-85),

Peter F. Mason (County Arts Officer 1985-1997),

Cornes Close,