The following response to the Lincolnshire Library Consultation comes from Councillor Steve Palmer, County councillor of Alford and Sutton on Sea, East Lindsey District Councillor Sutton on Sea North, Town Councillor Mablethorpe Trusthorpe and Sutton on Sea.
On Wednesday the 30th the results of the library consultation were revealed at the community and public safety scrutiny meeting. The consultation carried out by Sheffield Hallam University showed from those who responded that there was many who are angry and upset about the proposals. Many participants found the survey and consultation events unsuitable or inadequate. There was fundamental disagreement with the proposals. There were thousands of communications highlighting the value and importance of libraries and the function of the libraries amounted to much more than the consultation referred to.
Young people in their own consultation also opposed the plans.
It was recognised that members of the public and councillor’s had developed campaigns and led action against the proposals.
Key messages from the consultation were, the enjoyment libraries bring, positive impacts on quality of life and wellbeing, the quality of staff and facilities.
Well over 60% said changes would effect them personally and impact on their community. Impacts would be damaging to community particularly the elderly, children and job seekers. Rural communities felt the effects would be more serious than impacts on urban communities. The cuts to library service were viewed as highly unfair and short sighted that would result in permanent damage to the county with the impact on young people a key concern. Also was the fear that community run libraries may not materialise or close when difficulties were encountered.
A major criticism of the consultation was there was no option to state they wanted to leave the service as it is.
My own opinion is this consultation result has just shown what those against the proposals have been saying all along and the executive of the council by ignoring the recommendation of the scrutiny committee, earlier in the year not to proceed with this consultation, have wasted at least £50,000 the total amount with officer time etc is undeclared at this time.
The executive must now man up and admit that these proposals are wrong. It was wrong to cut 1.9 million from a 6 million budget before developing a full understanding of what consequences such a swathing cut would do to this statutory duty. By doing this the wrong way round we now have a tail wagging the dog situation.
They were wrong in running an expression of interest campaign at the same time as the consultation, again doing things the wrong way. Communities have been frightened into trying to come up with volunteers to take over their libraries because they don’t want a inadequate mobile service which was their only other option. Worse still the information packs which list the premises costings of the libraries are not the same as the library service officers are using as revealed at the meeting, they are between 16 and 22% too low.
Worries on how to raise thousands of pounds a year to run the two libraries in my division, Alford and Sutton on Sea, is why the current volunteers have shied away from an expression of interest plus they value the professional staff.
We must not also forget the loss of mobile stops at places such as Huttoft and Bilsby where their communities have had no options at all just ceasing of the service.
I would say to the nine executives of the council, made up of eight conservatives and one liberal who will not let your elected members have a free vote on this issue but hang onto their right to decide the fate of libraries on their own, that this is far more important than libraries this is about showing the electorate that consultations are not rubber stamping exercises as critics say, this is about reconnecting with the voters, this is about transparency, this is about being seen to do the right thing by the people who put you in power, this is about your election promises to protect frontline services, this is about democracy.