On 3/3/2015 nine members of Lincolnshire County Council’s Executive backed proposals to turn 30 libraries into community hubs run by volunteers. In December 2013 the council first revealed its community hub plan, which also includes cutting hours at the remaining libraries and axing mobile services from 100-plus villages, in order to save £1.7 million. The proposal also means well over 100 redundancies as staff are replaced by volunteers. The proposal has met with massive opposition over 18 months, including opposition from best-selling authors, celebrities and many MPs; a 23,000 name petition; a 400 strong march; 900 comments recorded online, backing from national groups like The Library Campaign and a high court judicial review win on two counts.
1. Councillor M J Hill OBE
2. Councillor Mrs P A Bradwell (absent on 3/3 so did not vote)
3. Councillor C J Davie
4. Councillor R G Davies
5. Councillor M S Jones
6. Councillor P A Robinson
7. Councillor R A Shore
8. Councillor Mrs S Woolley
9. Councillor C N Worth
10. Councillor B Young
THE LIBRARY CAMPAIGN RESPONSE
An outraged response to this has just been published by Laura Swaffield, who was in the public gallery at the Lincolnshire libraries Judicial Review. Read it here: Lincolnshire Library Madness
LINCOLNSHIRE CAMPAIGNERS’ RESPONSES
Angela Montague, Market Rasen, mother and business owner
This decision has been made by 9 people. The people of Lincolnshire, who pay for the library service through their taxes and in many cases rely hugely on that service, have never been asked by the council if they agree with the plan or not. This is one of the reasons the council’s consultation was judged illegal in the high court, because it was carried out when the plan was too set in stone to be changed. The gauge of public feeling we do have is the work of the campaign, with their very limited resources, a petition of over 23,000, a march 400 strong and the heartbreaking 900 comments recorded on the online petition. Plus support from best-selling authors and celebrities. An amazing show of force that would be up in neon lights if it supported something the council exec wanted to do instead of challenging it.
Dumping so much of this service on volunteers is a tragedy for the staff who lose their jobs, the volunteers asked to take on too much and the communities that are very likely to have a shadow of a library service soon, if at all. What happened yesterday will make the lives of Lincolnshire’s most vulnerable people harder, the library service is so intertwined with children’s services, care for the elderly, support for the unemployed, etc. And every crisis these volunteer libraries have in the coming months must be pinned on the 9 people who forced this plan through, not the worthy volunteers. The council executive are to blame, for this Lincolnshire disaster in waiting *and* for the inspiration they have today given councils across the UK to hack away at precious libraries. What a terrible legacy those 9 councillors now have against their names.
William Hussey, Author, Skegness
The fact that many more thousands of people signed the petition against this plan than voted for the entire executive combined at the last election shows how much democracy, the rule of law and the voice of the people matter to this arrogant elite. A sad day for libraries in Lincolnshire and, more widely, for the principle of democracy in a county that hosts the Magna Carta – a document that symbolises the curtailment of the arbitrary power of a tyrannical elite.
Janet Mackey , Alford, one of the volunteers that has withdrawn their support
I can’t believe that the decision was carried by just 10 people biased towards one ruling party. What happened to democracy? This needs to be shouted loud and clear, because otherwise why should any of us vote ever again and take part either in local politics or in indeed Parliamentary elections. I am passionate about other people and believe that we should all look to doing the right thing for everybody.
Megan Sutherland, Ruskington
I cannot understand how the ruling of a judicial review has apparently been utterly disregarded. I shall find any way possible to relocate away from Lincolnshire back to a similarly rural county such as Suffolk where library services are valued, supported and flourish. This is a sad faliure of democracy and makes it hard to continue to use the vote, so hard won by the suffragettes. However use it I shall, in doing the best I can to vote for any party or Individual who values free education and access to resources for said education. Lincolnshire County Council have not acted in my name, or indeed in anyone’s but their own.
The problem is that democracy in this country is something which only exists when there is an election. People voted the majority party in and that is the end of the democratic process. If we are not happy with the policies they then deliver, the only democratic option we have is to vote for another party at the next election.
Kay Gibson, North Hykeham
Sat in my car waiting to Drive home from work today listening to BBC radio Lincolnshire I was neither shocked nor enlightened by the news report. After all this plan has been on the table for at least 7 years so why should the opinions of voters have any sway on the untouchable 10! Sadly this didn’t stop me shouting at the radio much to the surprise of the poor lady trying to get into her car parked next to me! (I did apologise!)
The same line came back as ever ‘If we had not had to go through the judicial review’ ‘If we had not had to waste time and money fighting protester’ well I’m very sorry for any inconvenience we may have caused. After all HOW DARE WE! How dare we question the actions of the people we have elected? How dare we speak up to the council? How dare we raise over 23,000 voices to spark a debate? Oh wait. My bad. That doesn’t happen any more!
Is the council really so blinkered as to not realise that the majority of these ‘magic volunteers’ they expect to step up are in fact the people who they have just labelled an inconvenience! Then just to rub salt into the wound the following article was about the plans to pedestrianize a small section of the high street! And what you may ask is the manic figure that LCC expect to spend on the beautification of this small stretch of pavement, you guessed it £2m! Well now that sum of money rings a bell for some reason. There you have it folks, LCC’s priorities laid out for all to hear. So at the end of this almost two year run you may surmise that we have lost, if so you would be very wrong. On a personal level I have gained so much. I have gained an amazing new group of friends from varied social backgrounds who I would never have met otherwise. I have gained a vast deal of knowledge and respect for councillors on a local level. People of Lincolnshire look to your Parish / Town councils. They work so very hard for little thanks and no pay! I have gained an invaluable insight into politics, found that not all are the same and that there are those willing to go out of the way to help for absolutely no personal gain because it is simply the right thing to do. I now know which way I will vote in the GE and finally I am more determined than ever to carry on standing up for what is right. This started as me standing up for my son and his legal right to free access to library books, that passion will never die.
Andrea Sullivan, Lincoln, parent with your children
It is ridiculous they spend money on promoting Lincoln & the Magna Carta is an hugely important book with a rich history to it. Yet they are denying many people the opportunity to discover a rich world of history through the books in the library. The chance to learn & discover & to be inspired through books, they ought to be ashamed of themselves. How are those of us who are not able to afford to buy books or those who don’t live centrally to the main library supposed to manage. I’m sure that could afford to run the service with experience library staff as the government encourages apprenticeships which would help with costs.
Bob Harrison, Lincoln
The decision taken to-day is what I have come to expect from the council executive but one which I have always hoped and argued against. It has been fairly obvious from the start that the council has carefully planned most of the moves, knowing that despite protests, communities would be morally obliged to come forward and offer to run libraries rather than let them close. Therefore the council could be confident in saying the so called “volunteers” supported their proposals. Because of this, it would always be an uphill battle for those who wanted to retain a professionally run library service. There have been expensive errors made by the council along the way but despite the cost, the results of the public consultation being overwhelmingly against them and the uncertain future of the tier three hubs, they were still determined to press ahead with their plans for reasons that can only be described as political ideology. Other proposals have been put forward, one by Greenwich Leisure, (a charitable, not for prophet organisation) who have experience of running libraries, completed extensive research and believe they can achieve the required amount of savings. They also believe they can improve the library service in many ways such as keeping professional staff (thus avoiding the expense of further redundancies), staff development and increased opening hours. No satisfactory, more detailed explanation of why a proposal like this has not been considered viable for the service has been given by the council. Perhaps because they want to shed responsibility for 30 libraries? I am now thoroughly ashamed of the Lincolnshire county council executive who have made themselves a laughing stock among the nation’s library supporters.
Totally agree with William Hussey. It seemed in watching the debate that they were saying many ideas/processes for saving the current library service would cause legal difficulties. What about peoples wishes? I hope they will pay at the next election but I doubt it. Lincolnshire tends to be backward looking and conservative in its thinking. I love Lincolnshire and have lived in the county for 50yrs. Good luck to those who will be asked to pick up the pieces.
The agreement made on 3rd February 2015 is substantively different to that put towards the public at the first consultation, which was pronounced unlawful at the judicial review. It is also substantively different to that put towards the public in the second consultation. The previous proposals were:
1) retain 15 libraries with full support under County Council control and funding, these were to be classed as sufficient to fulfil the Council’s obligations under the Libraries Act 1964 for providing a ‘comprehensive and efficient’ library service;
2) that the remaining libraries were offered out for tender to the communities for the creation of new Community Hubs, which were to be ‘extra’ to the statutory provision provided by the remaining 15 Libraries, and would therefore gain financial support for setting up and running costs of a limited amount for a limited time;
3) that if there was not an acceptable Expression Of Interest for the library services this would be provided by the addition of Mobile Library Services to the community that had lost its static library;
4) that there was no guarantee the the library building itself would form part of the offer as regards the Community Hubs.
Councillors Hill and Worth consistently misled the public by describing the Community Hubs as Libraries and claiming that a significantly smaller book deposit than currently held in all the branch libraries under threat, supported by volunteers, would be an improvement and increase on the current library provision at a significantly reduced cost. This is quite clearly not the case, never has been and never will be.
Firstly: Community Hubs are not libraries and not part of the Council’s statutory provision and therefore do not necessitate the Council to provide any library support after the initial contracted period.
Secondly: the very large reduction in book deposit, removal of reference materials and removal of the support of professionals cannot be seen as in any way an ‘improvement’.
Thirdly: there is absolutely no guarantee that these community hubs will be able to even meet the current demands of the static libraries for the communities in which they are placed.
In conclusion it is deeply misleading to suggest that the replacement of 30+ current static libraries with Community Hubs can be seen as even a retention of current service let alone an improvement.
The proposals agreed by the Council on the 3rd February 2015 are summarised as follows:
1) 15 Libraries will be retained under the County Council’s control will be put out to tender and will eventually be run by a 3rd Party organisation.
2) The 30+ Community Hubs cannot guarantee to use the current building and in many cases will have to provide their own building or place from which to run the services, but will still not gain any more in terms of initial and continuous financial and/or practical support from the Council beyond the contracted period.
3) If there is no acceptable EOI for running a Community Hub as a replacement to the current static Library there is now no guarantee that this loss will be filled in by a Mobile library.
It is quite clear that none of this was communicated by the Council to the Public at the time of the 1st or the 2nd ‘Consultations’, which leads me to conclude that if the 1st ‘Consultation’ was unlawful, the changes made, and currently agreed by the Council’s Executive Committee, then the 2nd ‘Consultation’ is also unlawful. Also that the Council has deliberately misled the public as regards library provision and that the only conclusion to be gained is that they have always intended to close 30+ static libraries and to sell of or rent out those capital assets, leaving the Council’s totality of Library provision at only 15 Libraries. It also leads me to conclude that the County Council wishes to reduce the Council to a body that provides no services of its own but merely acts as a ‘commissioning body’ buying in services and effectively placing public assets at the mercy of commercial market forces and corporate self-interest. Finally that the current Council Executive has a total disregard for democratic protest and for the desires, opinions and ideas of the people it is supposed to represent – this is an Authority that has lost its public service remit and concern, and turned in on itself.
Press Coverage Roundup
Plans for volunteers to run Lincolnshire libraries approved
Lincolnshire Echo : 3rd February
Lincolnshire CC Executive agree to library cuts
Lincolnshire County Council Executive has today backed proposals to turn 30 libraries into community hubs run by volunteers.
Louth Leader : 3rd February
Lincs CC’s executive approves plans for £2m library cuts
email your views to email@example.com
Sleaford Standard : 3rd February
Lincolnshire | Approval given for cutdown library service
Grimsby Telegraph : 3rd February
Controversial overhaul plan for Lincolnshire’s libraries get council approval
Grantham Journal : 3rd February
Councillors approve plans for £2m library cuts
Lincolnshire Echo : 3rd February
Lincolnshire Libraries consulation has cost £720k so far
Save Lincolnshire Libraries : 3rd February
Lincolnshire Tory MP & Government Minister demands Lincolnshire CC ‘urgently rethinks’
John Hayes MP’s letter, here
Save Lincolnshire Libraries : 3rd February
Cost to Taxpayers of Lincs Library Fiasco Rockets to £728,000