Open Letter to @EdVaizey re Sheffield and Lincolnshire Libraries

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

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

Open Letter dated 26th September 2014

Ed Vaizey, M.P.

Dear Mr. Vaizey,

The Save Lincolnshire Libraries campaign welcomes the fact that you are asking questions of Sheffield City Council following detailed comments from the Broomhill Library Action Group.

Now, further to the outcome of the Judicial Review of our County Council’s proposals, I request by means of this Letter that you extend your action and influence elsewhere in the country, making the continued plight of our service a priority.

I wrote to you and the two Secretaries of State several times in 2013 and maintain that, had you intervened at that time, you might have halted legal proceedings and prevented the current adverse outcomes which include drastically reduced library opening hours; a reduction in mobile library provision; a large number of staff redundancies and further costs to taxpayers and residents.

The areas of questioning which you raise in Sheffield mirror issues here, being those of travel times and catchment areas, the impact of reduced opening hours and the impact upon areas of deprivation. You will also have noted that over 23,000 people signed a petition to express their dissatisfaction about our County Council’s proposals which affect all areas of Lincolnshire.

Why did you not ask questions of the Conservative/Liberal Democrat led County Council? I actually sent you a detailed list of appropriate questions in October last year and, when your Department responded in January 2014, you stated that you were aware of the proposals for Lincolnshire and would continue “ to consider the representations made”.

Notwithstanding, Lincolnshire County Council took a decision in December 2013 to drastically reduce the library service, against the wishes of many thousands of residents. A “time-out” at that point would have staved off a Judicial Review, and maintained the library service for a longer period, until you were satisfied yourself that the action being proposed by the Council’s nine person Executive was appropriate or statutorily viable.

In March this year, your department promised to “reconsider my representations of 7th February,2014 in light of the Court’s decision.” That was in reference to the Judicial Review held in July. Now, residents of Lincolnshire are faced with a much reduced service, despite the Judge having quashed the County Council’s proposals (Dictionary definition of to quash – to declare null and void). Are you content with this state of affairs? Are you keeping in touch with the Council’s plans for a second consultation? Are you watching how Lincolnshire is dealing with the bid from Greenwich Leisure Limited?

I should be most grateful for your early reply.

Yours Sincerely,

Maurice Nauta

Save Lincolnshire Libraries campaign

You can read the original letter from Ed Vaizey here on Broomhill Library Action Group’s Facebook album

And see how the story has been covered in the Sheffield press here:

This editorial (quoted from Public Libraries News) gives the national context to the letter from Maurice:

It looks like Ed Vaizey, the minister most in charge of public libraries, is showing some action.  In a detailed letter to Sheffield Council, Ed demands clarification and explanations of fifteen different points in order to help him make up his mind about whether he should intervene.  He has also instructed them not to make any changes to library services until the end of October, to give him time to consider the results and override the council if necessary. All in all, this is an extraordinary letter.  One cannot help but wonder if the closeness of the General Election and Ed’s general reputation as a  non-intervener in libraries is worrying him.  While it is doubtful he would actually launch a local inquiry (the last thing he’d want, surely, would be news stories about cuts to public libraries in May 2015) it will do him no harm to be seen as less toothless. It’s going to cause significant work for Sheffield Council and hearten the campaigners.  It also, and this is an important point, reduce the chances of Ed Vaizey himself being taken to court for his failure to fulfil his duties as Secretary of State … something which, with every deep cut announced and his so far pretty much complete inaction … was looking more and more likely.

2 thoughts on “Open Letter to @EdVaizey re Sheffield and Lincolnshire Libraries

  1. Pingback: Libraries News Round up: 29 September 2014 | The Library Campaign

  2. Pingback: Dear @SajidJavid, I suggest three things… | Save Lincolnshire Libraries

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