Ex Assistant Director for Libraries calls for Inquiry

400 people marched for libraries & Cllr Nick Worth called it 'disappointing'

400 people marched for libraries in Lincs, Sept 2013

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. (read this letter here)

Maurice Nauta was a senior manager in the library service and several other frontline services in the county, from 1988 to 2002.

His call for an inquiry is something quite separate from the judicial review that was in the news recently. A judicial review looks in great detail at points of law but an inquiry by The Secretary of State, as called for by Maurice, is likely to be much more wide-ranging. An inquiry could cover some of the same ground as a review by The High Court but provides a separate route by which the council’s decision to cut services could be overturned.

Running a proper library service is not something that the council do simply through choice, it is a requirement placed on them by Parliament. In 1964 Parliament ordered that all local authorities must provide a comprehensive and efficient library service “for all persons desiring to make use thereof ”. The Secretary of State has the power to order the council to improve its services if they are not up to standard.

The council have said that any volunteer run libraries that are introduced are to be “non-statutory”. This means that they will not officially count towards fulfilling the council’s duty to provide a comprehensive service on behalf of the government, adding to uncertainty about their long-term future.

Maurice believes that the changes that are being introduced are unlawful, as they would put the remaining level of library services in Lincolnshire substantially below that provided in any other rural county in England. His figures, taken from a government report, indicate that the local service will have half the number of buildings and professional staff and 50% of the budget for the size of the population than neighbours Nottinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Leicestershire and over ten other authorities.

The letter points out that the council have given no explanation as to why Lincolnshire’s official statutory service should be so very much worse than that provided in all of these similar rural counties and Maurice questions if it can genuinely be called comprehensive when compared to them.

He has also asked the Secretary of State to examine the efficiency aspect, as the current full and efficient service is to be removed from large areas of the county. Statutory libraries are only being kept in urban locations that are so far away from over a quarter of Lincolnshire families that none of this huge number of adults and children will be able to get to any of the remaining full service libraries in a reasonable time, as defined by the Department of Transport. Calculations using the council’s own figures show that the quantity of service provided for each pound of public money spent will also go down, making the new service less financially efficient which, if confirmed, would also break the law.

Enclosed with his letter are exhaustive and highly critical reports, including one on the consultation process. This report contains details of a document where the council say: “Some decisions had to be made before consultation” a statement which he puts forward as a part of the evidence collected to show that that the council did not consult with open minds as to the results. If an inquiry found this to be the case then it would render the consultation illegal and the decision to change the service that was based on it would be invalid.

Maurice encourages local people to contact their MP’s to ask them to back the call for an inquiry. “If you feel that the library service in the county will no longer be comprehensive, as Parliament requires it must be, then tell your MP and ask that they take it up with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport” he advised.

Please support Maurice by contacting your MP about his letter. Find out the contact details of your representative councillors and MPs by entering your postcode here, and let them know what you think https://www.writetothem.com/

The full text of the letter is here https://savelincslibraries.org.uk/lincolnshire-libraries-secretary-of-state-letter/

A STATEMENT by Maurice Nauta re The open letter to Secretary of State at The Department for Culture, Media and Sport

I would like to make clear that my decision to write to the Secretary of State at The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is not the result of any political agenda. Throughout my long career in library administration (in Lincolnshire and elsewhere) I worked comfortably with individuals and councils of all parties with the aim of providing both a high quality service and the best possible value for money to ratepayers.

I am appalled at the way this whole affair has been handled. Decisions have been made before proper debate and consultation; promises to protect frontline services have been broken; the views of most people consulted have been ignored; alternative proposals have been ignored or dealt with high-handedly; local communities are being forced to run their local libraries on a “take it or lose it” basis, and yet what is being put in its place can be shown to be less efficient and not comprehensive.

Even worse, little heed has been paid to the most vulnerable groups in society, many of whom will need to spend money even getting to library in future, or choose to lose their service completely. Little thought seems to have been given to any development of library services in the future.

I feel particularly saddened that this state of affairs could have been prevented in June last year. I sent a letter at that time to the Leader of LCC, Martin Hill, suggesting a different approach which would START with residents being asked for their views on the future of library services. I acknowledged that they do need to change. I offered my help with this. In the same letter, I suggested an alternative approach to budget reductions, which would mean LCC joining with co-terminous library services and saving on management and support services. I did not and still have not had an acknowledgement, let alone a reply to that letter.

I have supplied the Secretary of State with detailed and factual information so that she can judge for herself whether she believes that LCC has acted appropriately in pushing through proposals which I fear will not only destroy the library service in Lincolnshire, but damage the sense of community, hope and democracy across the whole of the countries second largest county.

Yours Sincerely,


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