Lincolnshire Libraries campaigner Andrew Bowell (From The Deepings) writes to his MP John Hayes. asking him to influence the Secretary of State to intervene in the Lincolnshire Library Crisis and ask for a Public Enquiry.
I am sure you are already aware of the news that came from Lincolnshire County Council yesterday, stating that Deepings Library is to be classified as a Tier 3 Library, and as such will be closed and replaced with a mobile Library, unless the community take on the task of running the Library.
You have supported the Community in The Deepings to try and save our Library, and I would like to thank you for your support, but this decision by Martin Hill and co will ultimately lead to the closure of the Library.
With Deepings Library serving a catchment area of 22,000 people, it is a very busy Library. Even if FODL or another organisation take over the running of the library, it is a big job, and whilst it may be possible to keep it running in the short term, the sheer size of the task, and the cost of running the Library are to much, and it will ultimately close. In essence Lincolnshire County Council are asking someone in the Community to devote all their spare time to running the Library, which hardly seems fair, and would be unsustainable.
At least two business plans were submitted to Lincolnshire County Council, that would have kept all the Libraries in the County open, and made the savings that were being requested, but Martin Hill has totally ignored them, and continued with his original plan.
I always thought that County Councillors were elected by the people to represent them at County Hall. In this case nobody outside the Council Executives wanted the Library Closures, The Deepings had a petition with 9,000 names objecting to the plans, and Save Lincolnshire Libraries had a further petition with over 22,000 signature also objecting to the plan. The Council Executive have ignored the views of the community to pursue a political ideology.
Before this announcement was made, Martin Hill tightened his grip on power by taking away the right to present petitions to Lincolnshire County Council and have a debate by the full Council. This is more like the actions of a dictator than an elected councillor.
I feel very let down by the Conservative Party over this decision.
As you are aware, Martin Hill and the members of his cabinet are members of the Conservative Party, and they have not listened to the people they represent, and used bullying tactics to enforce their own ideas and plans on the electorate. I would even suggest that they have acted like dictators by taking away the right to protest over their decision.
I am also disappointed that the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport has constantly refused to take any action, and intervene to stop this unfair and dictatorial decision. Does this show of disdain by the Secretary of State mean that it is now the policy of the Conservative Party to impose their ideas on the public no matter how unpopular they are, and denying the public the right to object? It is certainly looking that way.
The Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 states the following:
“It shall be the duty of the Secretary of State to superintend, and promote the improvement of, the public library service provided by local authorities in England and Wales, and to secure the proper discharge by local authorities of the functions in relation to libraries conferred on them as library authorities by or under this Act.”
This implies that the job of the Secretary of State is to superintend the improvement of the public library service. This government’s Secretary of State has just stood back and allowed Lincolnshire County Council to decimate the Library Service in the County, without question.
The Default Powers of the Secretary of State as laid out in The Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 are:
(a)a complaint is made to the Secretary of State that any library authority has failed to carry out duties relating to the public library service imposed on it by or under this Act; or(b)the Secretary of State is of opinion that an investigation should be made as to whether any such failure by a library authority has occurred, and, after causing a local enquiry to be held into the matter, the Secretary of State is satisfied that there has been such a failure by the library authority, he may make an order declaring it to be in default and directing it for the purpose of removing the default to carry out such of its duties, in such manner and within such time, as may be specified in the order.
My interpretation of these powers is that the Secretary of State can intervene and investigate if a complaint is made. In this case 22,000 names were on the petition from Save Lincolnshire Libraries, and 9,000 signatures were on the petition to Save Deepings Library, surely this is a sign that something is not right, and I know he has received complaints about this decision.
Please would you advise me why in this case the Secretary of State is refusing to act, even though there has been complaints, and he has the Power to intervene if he wants to. The County Council are proceeding with the same plan that they tried to impose after the first consultation, that was deemed to be illegal and flawed by the courts.
I can remember you standing outside the Library in the Deepings and saying; “This is a fight we will win.” The only way we can win now is for the Secretary of State to intervene and stop the planned cuts, so that a local enquiry can be held, and the views of the people of Lincolnshire can be heard.
There is a General Election coming up, and the actions of the Conservative County Council, and the disdain shown by the Conservative Secretary of State are just playing into the hands of the other parties.
I am requesting that you use your influence as a Minister to urge the Secretary of State to intervene and stop these draconian cuts, and to bring pressure on the County Council to do the right thing and listen to the electorate.
These Library cuts are wrong, and there is an alternative available that would save the money that the Council is trying to save and keep all the libraries open. There is no justifiable reason for the action that Martin Hill and Co are taking.
You have always been a good Constituency MP John, please don’t let your constituents down now.
I look forward to hearing from you in due course.
Andrew Bowell, Deepings