(2) LETTER TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE A former Assistant Director at Lincolnshire County Council has written to The Rt. Hon Maria Miller MP, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to formally request that she intervene and order an urgent inquiry into the changes being made by the County Council to the Lincolnshire library service.
The story so far…
“After a long and hard fight against the proposed cuts to Lincolnshire libraries, which have involved 23,000 names on petitions, marches and a much-criticised consultation, the council decision-makers have decided to go ahead and either close or pass to volunteers around 30 libraries. This, and the budget cut of £2m, makes the county’s library system one of the most substantial victims of the Austerity. Councillors see things differently, though. saying that due to volunteers coming forward, the county may end up with more libraries than it started with. Campaigners point out that such unpaid branches have questionable futures but to little avail. Indeed, Deepings Library campaigners now face the stark choice of volunteering (a position they strongly opposed) or seeing their branch close despite a 9,000 name petition to the contrary. Around 100 library staff will lose their jobs as part of all this and, no matter what side you stand on (and the councillors did not mention library staff once in their final debate), one’s heart must go out to them and to the dramas that they face.” From Public Libraries News
23,000 people signed various petitions against the cuts, almost certainly the largest petition figure of its kind in the UK since the austerity programme began, by a sizeable margin. The cuts have gone ahead by a decision of the council executive only. Nine people. Eight Conservative and one Lib Dem. Only 9,757 people turned out for these nine Executive Members in the 2013 county election. Over 13,000 more people signed the petition rejecting the council’s proposals than voted for the entire executive body combined. The council’s consultation (cost to taxpayers, £96k) showed widespread and complete opposition to the cuts. Here’s the summary:
“On the whole participants did not support the proposals
and wanted to retain the library service in its current format. The majority of participants highly
valued their local library service and there were thousands of communications which highlighted the
importance of the library, both to participants as individuals and also the perceived benefits to the
wider community. Library staff and current services also received substantial praise from both
adults and children. It was felt that the current library service generated significant benefits both to
individuals and wider communities (including schools).
Feedback on the proposed Tier structure was not straight forward to interpret, as the views of the
participants at consultation events differed from those who completed the survey. Also many
participants would not provide feedback on the questions that were asked (in the survey or at
consultation events) as they fundamentally disagreed with the LCC proposal and wanted the service
to remain the same. Of those who provided feedback the opening hours were indicated to be the
most important criteria. The qualitative (written) feedback on Tier 1 generated over 4,000
comments that were each coded. This data highlighted access, books and opening hours as the most
important factors. Feedback on Tier 2 criteria was broadly comparable to Tier 1 feedback.
The survey asked participants to state a preference between mobile and community run libraries.
Community run libraries were preferred to mobiles by the majority of participants in Tiers 1, 2 and 3.
However Tier 4 users favoured the mobile service. There were many issues highlighted with both 10
mobile and community run services and concerns over a decline in service from current levels and
the potential impacts of this. Many felt that community run libraries represented a significant
commitment by volunteers and that a professional member of staff would be required for support.
There were a wide range of issues relating to community run libraries that were prevalent in the
comments from consultation events, survey feedback, emails and letters, primarily relating to
sustainability, staffing and access. Mobile libraries were described as a ‘lifeline’ by many current Tier
4 users. However other participants did not believe that mobile libraries would work for their
community due to issues with access, timing, size, space and facility limitations. The key concerns
regarding the suggested Tier 3 provision were the limited access (through limited opening hours /
stops) and the loss of a community hub.
There was also a range of ideas put forward relating to how the library service could save money, or
generate additional income, through various diversification or partnerships opportunities.
Saving £2 million was acknowledged as a real challenge for the service. Libraries are seen as a hugely
valuable community asset, more than the service, they were described as a ‘community hub’ of
social interaction and inclusion that provide life-long learning opportunities, as well as supporting
small local businesses and fundamental to an exploration and appreciation of books for early
learners. Many felt that other consultation forums (e.g. surveys and consultation events) had not
given them adequate opportunity to object to the plans in their entirety and to make a case to retain
the existing library service. There was a strong call for LCC’s library proposals to be reconsidered by
the Executive on 3rd December 2013 in light of the strength of participants feeling.”
Click here to open the full PDF of the consultation report where people completely condemn the council’s plans and their consultation: SHU-Libraries-Consultation-Final-Report-31-October-2013 (2). Click here to read: Our response to the consultation findings
How you can help
The library cuts in Lincolnshire have national implications (read this independent summary here: Lincolnshire Council’s consultation gets into further hot water … and has national implications), so we invite anyone who cares about public libraries in the UK to support us.
Follow us on Twitter @savelincslibs, Tweet your support and we will RT!
If you have more time and a blog, please write a blog post on your support of our campaign and Tweet us the link, again we will share this widely.
The nine executive members who made this decision are:
Martin Hill (Cons), click this link for contact details
Patricia Bradwell (Cons), click here for contact details
Colin Davie (Cons), click here for contact details
Peter Robinson (Cons), click here for contact details
Richard Davies (Cons), click here for contact details
Sue Woolley (Cons), click here for contact details
Barry Young (Cons), click here for contact details
Nick Worth (Cons), click here for contact details
Reg Shore (Lib Dem), click here for contact details
Also worth contacting is Jonathan Platt, Head of Libraries and Heritage at Lincolnshire County Council. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Click these links to
SIGN the county-wide petition against the proposals and add your comment to the 900!
Click here to Contact us
TELL THE GROUP OF ANY local meetings, events or campaigns – email email@example.com
THANK YOU to the 400 people who joined the #BigLibraryMarch 21st September.
Click here to download the poster Big Library March Shops Poster
Click here to see the route Big Library March route
Click here for the Facebook Event Page