The following statement has been written by a Save Lincolnshire Library campaigner from Birchwood, Lincoln. He has asked to remain anonymous to protect personal contacts who work with the Council. There are many Save Lincolnshire Libraries campaigners who fall into this category, they are among the most passionate about the campaign but sadly they are unable to comment publicly as this could cause trouble for a friend or family member with council connections. Then of course there are the 170 library staff who can say nothing at all in public, but are facing redundancy. If only they could talk…
Lincolnshire Libraries Consultation: The Failings
The proposals were clearly not ‘at a formative stage’ because the plan to cut 30+ libraries was formed back in 2011 if not earlier, in 2010, shortly after the Central Government’s spending review. Formative plans do not include a concurrent bid to run libraries at the same time as the consultation unless the plans are already well advanced enough to put forward a detailed document for each library under threat.
‘Adequate time’ has not been given for consideration and response from the County Council because the Council need the cuts to go through before the 2014/15 budgets are finalised, which means there is absolutely no flexibility in the timescale for the cuts. Not only that but it has been quite clear from the response of, in particular Nick Worth, that the Council has no intention of taking the consultation findings into account in any way, shape or form but that they will go ahead with their plans – plans that were already advanced by the time the consultation was started.
Quite clearly the consultation document was skewed so that certain responses were rendered impossible other than to write them in the additional comments after having been forced to respond in a way that was contradictory to the opinions and reasoning of the person filling in the consultation form.
Nick Worth has also made it quite clear that he has no intention of taking into account any of the consultation or petition responders, on the grounds that the response was poor. Even though the Sheffield Hallam University stated clearly that this was the best and most detailed response they’d had of any consultation they’d been involved in. Furthermore that the number of responders to the Petition alone dwarfed the number of people who voted in May 2013 for the members of the Executive who will make the decision.
“where a decision may affect substantial numbers of vulnerable persons, the statutory duties as to promoting equality will mean that decision-makers will need rigorous and accurate advice from officers and, of course, this requirement will have to be reflected in the consultation process.”
It is quite clear from the documentation I have seen and from the ludicrous pronouncements of Nick Worth that the Council have completely failed to carry out a full Equalities Impact Assessment. For Nick Worth to respond to queries regarding the difficulty of travelling to the nearest static library with the comment that ‘most people have two or three cars anyway’ is utterly reprehensible. There has been little or no consideration given to how children, the elderly, the disabled and the vulnerable will access the replacement services or gain access to any of the remaining 15 static libraries. The only consideration was made concerning access by public transport, where it is claimed that more than 90% of the public are within 30 minutes by public transport; this is quite clearly a total travesty, as anyone who uses the bus service from Birchwood to the centre of Lincoln knows that it frequently takes longer than 30 minutes and that doesn’t even include the time taken to wait or travel to the bus-stop. The Council don’t appear to have carried out an Equalities Impact Assessment at all, they’ve only carried out a ‘Service Level Assessment’, which is not the same thing.
“In cases involving a substantial reorganization, the authority must give proper consideration to adopting the enhanced consultation process referred to in s.3A of the Local Government Act 1999” Have the County Council done this? No, they have not, they have quite clearly carried out the minimum allowable, and failed to allow enough time for them to assess the situation post-consultation. It is clear that the time scales imposed by the Council have meant that to make the cuts the Executive will have to accept the plans, in direct contradiction of the findings of the consultation and of the petition respondees, and that they will have to carry out the closures and planned redundancies by the end of March 2014.
The Council have not carried out the consultation early enough in the planning process. It should have been carried out in 2011 or 2012 when the plans were at an earlier stage and subject to adjustment. The Consultation document itself has made it clear that the consultation is not designed to produce any substantive change in the proposals.
They have failed to consult in a way that enables the public to respond in the way they wish, but forced responses the way they want them. They have also begun a period of consulting and bidding for asset transfer of libraries at the same time as the consultation, which also shows that the consultation was not carried out an an early stage in the planning process.
They have failed to properly carry out an Equalities Impact Assessment.
They failed to inform the public until several months after the May 2013 elections of their plans even though the cuts have been planned since 2010 and the cutting of 30+ static libraries planned by, at least, the end of 2011.
The Council’s overall budgets for 2014/15 are totally dependent on the plans going ahead as planned regardless of the findings of the consultation, therefore the consultation has been nothing more than an expensive exercise in paper-shuffling.
There has been no genuine intention to involve local communities impacted by the cuts other than to ask them to make a ‘bid’ for running a Library.
The Council’s press release machinery has been in operation recently to spread the lie that the majority of libraries will be ‘saved’ when that is simply not the case. There has never been any guarantee that the library building is part of the plan for the community library, especially when the quantity of books is as severely limited as it is. The County Council’s plans do not actually create libraries but community book-deposits.
Save Lincolnshire Libraries Campaigner, Birchwood, Lincoln
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Click here to open the 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
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.