Our latest blog post is a letter written to Kerry Coupe (reporter at The Bourne Local), by Andrew Bowell, resident of Deeping St James.
I would like to reply to County Issues on page 11 of The Local dated 1 August 2014. The article written by Martin Hill [leader of Lincolnshire County Council].
Martin Hill states that savings have to be made, and £2m was to be cut from the Library Budget. We have subsequently learned that Lincolnshire County Council had an underspend of £42m in the year 2013/14 and this money has not been earmarked for any purpose. Why couldn’t £2m be used to fund the county libraries?
The 11 page judgement has 54 sections, and I would like to refer to some of these sections.
Section 4 states – “Thus it seems to me that all the computer services now provided by the defendants libraries can properly be regarded as part of a library service within the meaning of s.7(1) of the 1964 Act. However, I do not think that an authority is bound to provide this particular service but, if it does it must continue to do so as part of its service.”
That last sentence “it must continue to do so” I feel is important. The County Council provides computer services in the library in The Deepings, and if this library were to close, or the Library was put into Tier 3, then these computer services would not be provided by LCC.
Section 17 states – “But for consultation to be meaningful the authority must be prepared to think again if those consulted are unhappy with the proposal and suggest a different solution.”
The people of Lincolnshire are unhappy with the proposals from LCC to cut the library service. Save Lincolnshire Libraries submitted a petition with 23,000 signatures objecting to the proposed cuts, and Save Deepings Library also submitted a petition with 9,000 signatures objecting to the cuts. Protest rallies were held in Lincoln, and Parliament was lobbied by library users from the County.There can be no doubt that the residents of Lincolnshire do not want their Library service cut, so why is it then that Cllr Martin Hill is still talking about libraries being run by community volunteers ?
Section 21 states – “Tiers 3 and 4 were not part of the statutory service.” I read this to mean that any library in Tiers 3 or 4 will not form part of the statutory service, and therefore should a group of volunteers fail to keep a Tier 3 or 4 library open, for whatever reason, then the library will be lost for ever.
Martin Hill states in his penultimate paragraph: “We remain open minded and will continue to keep in close contact with the communities wanting to be involved in running library services.” What does he mean by that statement? Does he not understand that most of the communities that expressed an interest in running a library did so because they were bullied by LCC into doing so? We were told that if we did not do so we would lose our library. These groups do not want to run their libraries, they are just frightened of the consequences of losing the libraries.
If savings have to be made to the County Council budget, why did they spend £240,000 on a flawed consultation, and subsequent court case. As the consultation progressed, LCC were told on a number of occasions that it was flawed, but they refused to listen to these protests. Instead the taxpayers have been left to foot the bill. Will the nine members of the Council Executive repay this sum to the council tax payers, or will they resign? I very much doubt whether they will do either.
Friends of Deeping Library were told by representatives from LCC that they would refurbish our library, as a recent survey has shown that the fabric of the building has been neglected, and work now needs doing to keep it watertight. This work would need to be completed by March 2015 if the Library is handed to volunteers, as the librarians have been sacked, and LCC do not have enough library staff to run it. Will Cllr Hill please promise that our library will stay open after that date if this debacle has not been sorted?
I put it to you Martin Hill, that the people of Lincolnshire value their library service, and do not want to run their own libraries on a voluntary basis, as this would be unsustainable in the long term.
Greenwich Leisure would make the requisite savings, and keep all the libraries open, which would please all parties concerned. Surely that is the way forward.
Andrew Bowell, Deeping St James
Read More on how Lincolnshire County Council’s library decision was quashed in the High Court here:
Our blog post on the outcome Win on Two Counts!
Blog post from Public Interest Lawyers High Court Quashes Decision
Report from The Library Campaign on the outcome LINCS LIBRARY RESCUE COULD SAVE LIBRARIES NATIONWIDE
Report in Public Libraries News (including links to media coverage): Lincolnshire Council Loses Judicial Review
Download the full judgement here: http://www.lincolnshire.gov.uk//Download/71574