Secretary of State declines to launch an Inquiry into Lincolnshire’s Library service

FOR SALE - This was the library in Washingborough

FOR SALE – This was the library in Washingborough. Three Lincs libraries are now closed for good with no volunteer hub on offer.

Read a PDF copy of the reply by clicking this link Ed Vaizey Reply re Lincolnshire Libraries

A year after library campaigner Maurice Nauta wrote to the Secretary of State with further evidence as to why the Secretary of State should launch an Inquiry into Lincolnshire’s Library Service, Mr Nauta has been notified, along with nine other local residents, that the Secretary of State will not do so.

“I am very disappointed with the response received, but not at all surprised. Despite my sending a great deal of evidence, Mr Ed Vaizey, M.P. has indicated that there will be no Inquiry.  This is despite the fact that he has used no standards to measure what a Comprehensive and Efficient Service would look like. The letter fails to address how the Secretary of State concluded that there will be a comprehensive and efficient service after reducing the core libraries to just 15. (read Mr Nauta’s letter on this page)

For example he states: page 8 “A reduction in book stock does not automatically mean that the stock is no longer comprehensive.” There is nothing to indicate what does make up a “comprehensive stock”.

He adds “a comprehensive service cannot mean that everyone in an area must live close to a library.” The Council’s own plan insists that people can get adequate access to the library service if they are no more than 30 minutes travel time from one of the larger “core” libraries. This in effect rules out 25% of residents in Lincolnshire. This is far from comprehensive or efficient.

Mr. Vaizey maintains that the volunteer run libraries are not relevant and not part of the statutory service.  It is likely that libraries outside the statutory service will close completely once Council funding runs out. Three communities have already lost their libraries (Washingborough, Coningsby / Tattershall and Skellingthorpe) and this is shameful.

Tweet from the Cherry Tree Class from Washingborough Academy, before the library was closed

Tweet from the Cherry Tree Class from Washingborough Academy (Feb 2015)  enjoying the library that’s now closed – link

It does seem that the Government is not willing to invest in the future of libraries. Throughout the country, libraries are going through the same process as we have been through here, with varied answers to library provision being considered. The Secretary of State has only agreed to intervene with an Inquiry once, as far as I am aware.

Finally, the letter is clear that it is for the local authority to make judgements about the library service in the first place. This Council sent out its manifesto four years ago (see pic below) proclaiming that it would protect frontline services. As the Minister rightly reminds us, it is the Council which “has direct accountability to the local population”. The next local elections are due in 2017.

Lincs Conservative manifesto 2013

Lincs Conservative manifesto 2013, see second to last bullet point

RESPONSE FROM PAULINE PALMER

Author of the alternative ‘Palmer Proposal’ for libraries, a summary of which can be read at this link.

Response to the letter from the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to Maurice Nauta’s Complaint

My personal response to the Secretary of State’s decision not to intervene is that it must be a political one. He is saying that he will not intervene, yet the only 2 enquiries that have been undertaken at all have been to Labour controlled councils. One was the Wirral some years ago when Jeremy Hunt was the SOS (the details of which I compared with Lincolnshire in my own representation and it showed that Lincolnshire was making far worse cuts) the local authority was subsequently required to make changes. The second has only just been declared and is the Carnegie library in Lambeth.

Throughout his response he keeps repeating the sentence ‘It is for LCC to decide’ but surely the whole point of the request for an enquiry is because members of the public believe that LCC have made political decisions and not decisions based on the requirements of a ‘comprehensive and efficient’ service?

For instance under Whether LCC appears to be acting in a careless or unreasonable way he says:

‘The Secretary of State considers that it is for LCC to ensure they have in place appropriate processes and governance structures to enable robust and well considered decisions to be taken and that such arrangements are within the proper bounds of LCCs discretion.’

I personally actually overheard conservative members of the scrutiny committee declare that they had to vote in favour of the changes. This surely means they were whipped. If they were then it makes a mockery of scrutiny. Therefore, he should intervene because the decision was not made fairly or democratically.

Then under the heading Whether LCC has failed to explain, analyse or properly justify its proposals he says:

‘The Secretary of State considers that the needs assessment made clear LCC’s rationale for using a 30 minute travel time criteria. It is for LCC, as the democratically accountable local representatives, to make the required value judgements with regard to the needs assessment for its library services and this is within the proper bounds of LCC’s discretion.’

Again if he were to order an enquiry the truth would emerge about the effect of a random ’30 minute travel time’.

‘Whilst book stock is clearly a key element of any library service, the precise level and nature of book stock is considered to be a matter for LCC to determine. A reduction in book stock does not automatically mean that the stock is no longer comprehensive.’

The fact is that the fewer books there are, the less choice there is and the result is a decline in users because they’ve read all the books in their particular genre. I know this happens because people have told me.

And then we come to the crunch heading Whether there is any serious doubt or uncertainty as to whether LCC is (or may cease to be) complying with its legal obligation to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service and his response includes:

‘The Secretary of State considers that staffing arrangements for the core statutory libraries is a matter for LCC and notes that volunteers are not replacing professional full time staff in these libraries. The fact that the community hubs are to be staffed by volunteers is not relevant to his consideration of whether the revised statutory service is comprehensive and efficient.’

Finally, the decision that has been made was expected but is not right and I still believe that there should have been an enquiry and it should have been brought some time ago before any of the changes took place.

Pauline Palmer

 

Lincolnshire Campaigner reports from #SUFLlobby2016

Ca7OFUPUAAA60dj

photo from CILIP Twitter Stream source

NOTES FROM THE “SPEAK UP FOR LIBRARIES” NATIONAL LOBBY

by Save Lincolnshire Libraries campaigner MAURICE NAUTA

9th FEB 2016

  1. Organised by Speak up for Libraries in central London near the House of Commons, campaigners met to share news about what is happening to libraries across the country. It aimed to unite major campaigning organisations for the future of libraries, including  The Library Campaign (TLC), Campaign for the Book, CILIP ( professional association for librarians), UNISON and Voices for the Library. Pauline (my wife) and I attended. This is our report.
  2. Registration was a chance to meet fellow campaigners. I spoke briefly to Laura Swaffield (TLC), Rosie Kirk ( colleague from Lincolnshire and Labour Councillor ), a Liberal Democrat Councillor from Leicestershire, who has campaigned on behalf of libraries in that county, and campaigners from Bromley ( Kent), Barnet and several other London boroughs. I also met Nick Poole ( CILIP chief) and Dawn Finch ( Librarian, author and CILIP President).
  3. The campaigners I spoke to were very positive, but realistic. There was growing concern about volunteer run libraries, rabid cuts by local authorities, and suspicion of organisations like Greenwich Leisure Ltd. Some had insinuated themselves onto “user boards”, others were just beginning to understand the magnitude of the fight ahead.
  4. I am in regular touch with Nick Poole, sharing with him letters sent to the Secretary of State and his Select Committee. He was very supportive of what I have sent urging John Whittingdale to use his powers to launch an inquiry into what has happened in Lincolnshire. He believed that the pressure on DCMS was building up, and that Ed Vaizey had been asked to sort things out forthwith.
  5. The hour meeting people flew by and we regret not speaking to more people. After an hour we were invited to take our seats to listen to the speakers assembled. They were mainly authors and all were interesting and inspirational in different ways. We were shown videos ( short-listed for the CILIP “Libraries Change Lives” award) all of which impressive. They included:

* a library app explaining for children the importance of libraries, featuring cartoons by children. Very amusing and excellent.

* arts activities held in St Helens’ libraries and aimed at people with mental/ physical ill-health.

*Supportive technology project in Portsmouth to assist the independence of older people and those with visual impairment. For example, it featured a group of people sharing an audio book within a library, listening to and enjoying the book together.

  1. Alan Gibbons ( author) acted as compere and was very forthright throughout. He has offered to meet with Ed Vaizey anytime, anywhere to debate the importance of libraries in front of a public audience. I would buy ringside seats to witness that. He believes that what the Conservative government wants is one central library with volunteer satellite libraries everywhere. He called it a “betrayal of the people”.
  2. Cathy Cassidy ( author) questioned whether there would be free access to libraries in the future, because of drastically reduced opening hours, libraries taken out of council control and others already closed for good. She declared it “a national scandal”. She reported that young people see the injustice and don’t understand why it is happening. She described libraries as “a safe haven, a refuge, and escape, and a gateway to other worlds.” She referred to her use of libraries as a young person as “ my escape from bullies or a sad day” and that she would have been “lost without a library”. She decried the lack of joined up government thinking, citing the encouragement of reading while withdrawing free access to books. Cathy quoted a young person called Kate saying “ Librarians, please remember how much you mean to us. When we walk through the library door we are home.”
  3. Philip Ardagh based what he said on the need for local councils to provide easy and safe access to libraries.
  4. Dawn Finch ( librarian, author and CILIP President) spoke of her own experience of libraries, where staff “were there to support me… and pushed me beyond my expectations”. She quoted 260 million visits per year to libraries, with more use in poorer areas than there used to be. She asked “ who would those people be without their libraries and professional support”?
  5. Eve Ainsworth said that libraries have been crucial to her development as an author. She has a dream that “I will have my own shelf of books in a library”.
  6. George Hamilton, young person. He is Chef Librarian at his primary school. He pointed out that any suggestions to introduce a library card for every child is useless when libraries are closing, and was adamant that children’s reading skills would not improve without libraries. Well done George.
  7. Alan Wylie described how the heart and soul of the service was being torn away, and that we need to be “ radical and defiant to stop this happening”.
  8. Jake Arnott, quoting someone else, said “People have made too much of Philip Larkins’ poetry and not enough of his librarianship”. He thinks it is a miraculous idea to have access to books which you can take away.”He also spoke about the crucial part libraries play in prisons in the opportunities they can open up for people.

Afterwards.

Pauline and I had an appointment with our local (Conservative) M.P. Sir Edward Leigh at 1.15pm. in the Central Lobby of the House of Commons. We were given instructions by the organisers of this event and told we would need to be at the security point in good time, as there were often queues.

In fact, we got through quite quickly and our MP met us on time. He has been notably anti our Council’s proposals to give libraries over to more than 30 communities to run with volunteers, or else close them.   He calls it a nonsense. He has also met with senior councillors alongside Tim Coates to argue about how bureaucrats should be fired before books are sacrificed.

He offered his continued support and agreed to back a recent letter I sent to the Leader of the Council suggesting that the enormous cuts imposed on the County Council by government could only be met by working much more closely with other neighbouring authorities to share management and support services, whilst continuing to run frontline services.

I explained that I was writing regularly to the Secretary of State, and have been doing so for nearly 3 years mostly without replies let alone action. Edward Leigh blamed this on the bureaucrats (DCMS), but asked that I keep him informed. Finally, as had to return to Committee, I gave him a copy of the “Speak up for Libraries Checklist of Key Lobby Messages”, including the Early Day Motion 1025 which he will consider signing.

Summary of the day.

In many ways it was a sad day hearing about the dreams of so many people destroyed needlessly, in my opinion. We are a long way down the line here in Lincolnshire, but I shall pass on these notes to colleagues and friends here in the hope that they see they do not stand alone, and that support to fight in still exists. Nor am I naive enough to believe that my MP is going to do anything to pull things back to where they were. Pauline and I will continue to continue put pressure on the Secretary of State and his cohorts so that he realises what a disaster he is presiding over.

Maurice and Pauline Nauta

Maurice Nauta, senior manager in the library service and several other frontline services in the county, from 1988 to 2002. Click this link to read his many letters to the Secretary of State. 

 

 

MAURICE WRITES TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE… AGAIN

photo

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

21 January 2016

Dear Mr. Whittingdale,

Request for local inquiry into library provision in Lincolnshire ( Ref: CMS 264190/asg)

I write further to my letter of 10th January to highlight new developments in Lincolnshire that I believe should play a significant part in your decision as to the need for a local inquiry. Please see the articles to which I refer in the two e-links, below.

In your letter to Councillor Hill of 26th March- “Local inquiry into library provision in Lincolnshire” you state, on pages 5 and 7 respectively, the following:

“The Mobile services and Community Hubs represent a valuable supplementary resource for residents of Lincolnshire and the Secretary of State supports the work of volunteers in delivery of library services. Although the Community Hubs and Mobile service are a valuable local resource, the Secretary of State has not taken them into account when considering whether to intervene by directing an inquiry, in part because LCC considers that the 15 core static libraries, targeted services and Universal Services enable them to provide a comprehensive and efficient service.” (page 5).

“The Secretary of State further notes that with a reduction in the number of core static libraries it will mean a reduction in the number of households within 30 minute travel time by public transport reducing from 93% to 74%, and in terms of active borrowers a reduction from 94% to 76%” ( at the foot of page 7).

Easy access to a comprehensive and efficient service had been a major plank in the arguments put forward by Lincolnshire County Council to justify the changes they proposed. Relevant now is that Lincolnshire County Council is considering halving the subsidies for the county’s bus routes which will prevent even more people, especially those from deprived areas, being able to access the statutory library service. Please see:

‘Is your bus route one of the 168 facing the axe?’

http://www.lincolnshireecho.co.uk/REVEALED-bus-route-168-facing-axe/story-28571592-detail/story.html

A further article explains why this is happening:

http://thelincolnite.co.uk/2016/01/government-cuts-in-council-funding-a-knife-in-the-back-for-lincolnshire/

Central government appears to be heavily supporting London and the Metropolitan Authorities at the expense of rural county councils.

That our Conservative-controlled authority is provoked into launching a “scathing attack on the government for its cuts to the council’s budget over upcoming years” is unprecedented, but it explains why Lincolnshire proposes cutting a crucial service like public transport.

I trust that you will now issue your decision on my request for intervention within 28 days, as the delay in dealing with the same leads me inexorably to the conclusion that your officials are trying to create a fait accompli because they ignore residents’ stated preference to continue to be able to access a public library as specified within the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964.

Yours sincerely,

Maurice Nauta

Read Mr Nauta’s other letters to the Secretary of State (all three people that have held this post during the Lincolnshire campaign) here:

https://savelincslibraries.org.uk/lincolnshire-libraries-secretary-of-state-letter/

Reporting from the Budget Meeting, Lincolnshire CC Offices, 19th January 2016

Maurice Nauta

Maurice Nauta

CAMPAIGNER MAURICE NAUTA REPORTS from the Budget Meeting, Lincolnshire County Council Offices, 19th January 2016-01-2:

1. 15 people attended the consultation meeting, chaired by Martin Hill, Leader of the Council. David Forbes gave a full briefing on the dire position faced by the Council, which has to find £40 million savings now and then over £100 million further savings over the next few years.
2. Of the public, three supported Children’s Centres, one spoke up for museums, another for young people’s needs and another for adult social care.
3. The consultations on the website of LCC and the one in County News are different. Cllr Hill mostly referred to the one in County News. A spokesperson from their press office said that they have had about 9,000 replies. It is not clear who is validating the results which will come out of all this, but the Treasurers will be involved. (It would be worth someone asking about this, in hindsight.)
4. At the top of the County News (CN) list of “discretionary services” is libraries, which of course is not discretionary but statutory. I drew this to the meeting’s attention. I also mentioned that the figure of a £6million budget next to the library service included £2 million savings already earmarked.
5. If you add up all the budgets of the 16 services listed, it comes to close to £40 million. So even if they scrapped all these services, they would have nothing to scrap over the next few years.
6. My suggested strategy was :
(i) Go back and argue hard with government ministers for a much better deal.
(ii) Join forces with all other Lincolnshire wide Councils to lobby government. Include residents.
There were some very strong voices in the chamber: people spoke up very well for their own services.
(iii) Work more closely with all the other Lincolnshire councils to share facilities, support services, ideas and funds.
(iiii) Integrate services, where feasible, with other neighbouring authorities to share service costs, ideas, facilities and management of services, including support services like IT, Legal, Personnel, Finance etc.
7. Cllr Hill also informed the meeting of the need to halve the bus service subsidies ( whilst protecting “Call Connect”). Everyone was against this, apart from a few people whose experiences were that buses outnumbered passengers on some routes. There is an issue here for the Council’s Library Service plans, as arguments from our campaign that closures of libraries would mean that many more people would not be able to reach a statutory library service were countered by LCC saying that they could use the bus service to gain access, and “Call Connect” would provide necessary back-up. The likelihood is that, if these cuts go ahead, Call Connect will not be able to pick up the shortfall.
More on the bus route cuts with a quote from Maurice here

Save Lincs Libraries gets ‘holding’ reply from DCMS

autumn moments

Below is a transcript of a letter just received by Maurice Nauta from the DCMS. You can read the letters from Maurice to the Secretary of State here: Letters to the SOS.

Maurice Nauta comments:

“I have received the attached holding letter from the Department of Culture , Media and Sport. It is the first communication I have received since April. Maybe the appointment of GLL to run the library service has quickened the pace of response, and I look forward to receiving a full reply in due course. It is likely that the Secretary of State waited for the outcome of the Judicial Review, but a simple acknowledgement would have been helpful and courteous in the meantime.”

DCMS

Ministerial Support Team

4th Floor 100

Parliament Street

London SW1A 2BQ

3 December 2015

Dear Mr Nauta,

Thank you for your correspondence of 22 April and 3 November 2015, to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, the Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP and his successor the Rt Hon John Whittingdale OBE MP, about changes to library service provision in Lincolnshire. I am replying as a member of the Ministerial Support Team and I apologise that you did not receive a response to your previous letter.

Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture and Digital Economy, wrote on 26 March 2015 to Councillor Martin Hill, Leader of Lincolnshire County Council indicating that the Secretary of State was not currently minded to order an inquiry under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 into the changes in library provision in Lincolnshire. However, before taking a final decision the Secretary of State invited further representations from interested stakeholders.

I can confirm that the Department received a number of detailed representations, in response to this invitation, including your communication of 22 April. All of this information is being carefully considered and will inform advice to ministers on their final decision on whether or not to order an inquiry into whether the Council’s proposals continue to offer a comprehensive and efficient library service.

The further analysis of the additional representations made in respect of changes to Lincolnshire library service provision is continuing. It is anticipated that ministers will be in a position to make a final decision in the near future.

I hope that this information is helpful.

Regards,

Jackie Shirley

Ministerial Support Team

===============

Comment from library campaigner Shirley Burnham via Twitter: “In a medical emergency the responder applies CPR immediately. In a libraries emergency the responder (DCMS) waits 8 months till the patient is breathing his last or is well and truly dead – Then he drops a line to the bereaved, saying they are still carefully considering what remedy to apply. Procrastination kills the patient – and this is their aim?”

LET’S START REBUILDING THE LIBRARY SERVICE IN LINCOLNSHIRE

1658542_1047383705276792_2238861586178188956_oLET’S START REBUILDING THE LIBRARY SERVICE IN LINCOLNSHIRE

At their meeting on Tuesday December 1st,   Lincolnshire County Council’s Executive Committee will be deciding on whether to appoint Greenwich Leisure to run the County Council Library service.

More than two long years ago the County Council set up a consultation, basically asking local people to keep just 15 libraries for the County Council to run and to close approximately 40 other libraries unless volunteers could be found to take them over.

Save Lincolnshire Libraries (SLL) – a group of Lincolnshire people who love books and appreciate the full value of public libraries came together.

Supported by thousands of people across the county they campaigned against the plan. Nonetheless, the County Council decided in December 2013 to carry out its plan.  Following this Simon Draper took the Council to Judicial Review, supported by SLL.

The High Court quashed the decision of the County Council Executive Committee declaring the consultation to be unlawful, and that the council would need to go back to Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL), a not for profit organisation, to properly consider their interest in running the service which the Council had failed to do first time round.

The County Council Executive then found it was necessary to go out to tender following the continuing interest from GLL. However, despite the High Court decision and the views of people in Lincolnshire, they decided not to go out to tender for the whole service but only for the 15 libraries they had first thought of. Following a second Judicial Review the Council was allowed to continue down this path. Tuesday’s decision is about whether to ask GLL to run this reduced service.

“From the beginning the objective of Save Lincolnshire Libraries has been to maintain libraries in Lincolnshire and to seek an improved library service. From the beginning it has been clear that the only objective of the Executive Committee was to run as small a library service as they could get away with legally, with the minimum of opening hours and service,” said John Hough, on behalf of Save Lincolnshire Libraries.

“We are deeply disappointed that the Council refused to consider properly GLL’s bid to run the whole library service and to maintain the staff. They rubbished GLL’s figures, said no one wanted libraries anymore and communities should be forced to run their libraries whether they wanted to or not. So far three libraries have been closed and there may be more in the future.”

“Nonetheless the decision to be made on Tuesday does represent a chance to start the rebuilding of the library service in Lincolnshire. We should never have had to spend over two and a half years to get to the point where an organisation committed and enthusiastic about libraries could finally have an opportunity to try and deliver the kind of library service that people in Lincolnshire want and deserve.”

“Save Lincolnshire Libraries will continue to campaign for and press for better library services in Lincolnshire. This is hopefully the beginning of a better future for libraries. It is a scandal that it has been at the cost of the jobs of many hardworking and devoted librarians which could have been saved if GLL had been allowed to run the whole service as they had originally offered to do.”

Please also read this recent post, where four local political figures voice their anger at the situation.

https://savelincslibraries.org.uk/2015/11/23/utter-disregard-for-the-people-of-lincolnshires-concerns/

“Utter disregard for the people of Lincolnshire’s concerns…”

-It is worth remembering that they lost the first Judicial Review and had to pay over £100,000 of our money for the mistakes they made. They did not pay it out of their own pockets.- (2)Response by Lincolnshire political figures to the news (November 2015) that county council officers have recommended the Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL) should be awarded the contract to take over Lincolnshire’s Library Service.

Cllr Phil Dilks

Lincolnshire Labour Shadow Exec Member for Libraries.

The recommendation to ask Greenwich Leisure to run what is left of our library service clearly vindicates more than two years of campaigning by Save Lincolnshire Libraries.

It also highlights the staggering incompetence by the Leader of Lincolnshire County Council and his Executive in pouring more than £1 million of public money down the drain and totally mishandling this whole sorry saga.

More than two years ago, Greenwich Leisure offered not only to run every library in Lincolnshire within the reduced budget available with no loss in staff or opening hours.

The council wrongly rejected GLL’s offer, forcing Save Lincolnshire Libraries to resort to Judicial Review which resulted in a High Court judgement that Lincolnshire County Council had acted unlawfully and full costs awarded against the council.

Rather than admit they were wrong, Cllrs Martin Hill, Nick Worth and the rest of the Executive buried their heads in the sand, attacked library campaigners and continued to rubbish Greenwich Leisure, claiming they had no confidence GLL could deliver what they promised.

The Conservative-run council have thrown more than £1 million of ratepayers money at their plan to sack dozens of dedicated library workers and leave thousands of residents without a local library following library closures which they claimed would never happen.

Finally, after the proper consideration forced by the High Court, officers have clearly concluded that they do have confidence in GLL’s ability to deliver and develop what is left of our library service and protect those employees who have not been made redundant.

Accepting GLL is a welcome move which would never have happened were it not for campaigners willing to stand up for libraries. It is just a pity that the conversion on the road to Damasus has come so late in the day and only after libraries in places like Skellingthorpe, Washingborough and Coningsby /Tattershall have already been closed down.

If Martin Hill and his Executive had listened to sense – and the people of Lincolnshire – more than two years ago, we could have saved a great deal of heartache by ‘volunteers’ dragooned into taking over their libraries, as well as a shed full of money that could have been used to boost the library service.

They should hang their heads in shame.

Cllr Adam Brookes

Liberal Democrat Town Councillor for Market Deeping

-It is worth remembering that they lost the first Judicial Review and had to pay over £100,000 of our money for the mistakes they made. They did not pay it out of their own pockets.- (3)Whilst it is welcome that GLL are set to be awarded the contract to run the Lincolnshire library service following the tender process, it is deeply disappointing that an opportunity was missed to preserve previous service levels through the failure of Lincolnshire County Council to properly consider GLL’s original offer. With this decision there is finally the prospect of some much needed stability for both library staff and library users, but we must continue to ensure that the County Council delivers its promised support for libraries, particularly those now in the hands of volunteers.

Cllr Steve Palmer

Lincolnshire Independent spokesman on Libraries.

The issue of who runs the remaining statutory service and the now non-statutory mobile vans and supports the new community hubs is to my mind a side and secondary consideration.

My primary concern is the damage has already been done to the once totally comprehensive service that was a proud statutory provision under the protection of Lincolnshire County Council and what can an outside provider give to us that could not have been provided by a proactive, forward thinking council.

Will whoever is chosen restore the 160 or so Lincolnshire jobs that have been lost? Will it restore the lost libraries at Tatershall/Coningsby, Washingbourgh and Skelingthorpe? Will it restore faith in the executive that made the decision to make the library service a post code lottery, some with professional service others with no library or a volunteer one, but we all pay the same council tax for whatever service we have. Will it restore faith in Lincolnshire County Council consultations in the future? Will it get back the unknown amount of taxpayers money lost in fighting the Lincolnshire public who are so passionate about and use libraries?

The sad thing is if this had been handled differently, if people had been listened to, if there had been a proper consultation, the whole issue could have come out so much better.

The money that would have been saved, the anguish and anger that would have been avoided and the heartache of librarians losing jobs, no, more than jobs, chosen vocations, all could have been much different.

To me it enforces the belief of many Independents and particularly Lincolnshire Independents that party politics at local authority blinkers councils from giving the best decisions. Blindly following doctrine and the party line does no one any favours least of all the Libraries of Lincolnshire and having a few executive councillors of one group making unilateral decisions makes mockery of true democracy.

So good luck to the selected provider, you have some brilliant professional library staff remaining and some plucky and community focussed volunteers (God bless them) to lead out of the darkness and I sincerely hope you can do it, but the fact you have to do it, is the disgrace.

Matthew Mahabadi

Former South Holland and the Deepings parliamentary candidate for Labour

After this Conservative-run County Council willfully decimated our library services as a direct result of the flesh and bone cuts spearheaded by the Conservative Government, it is heartening to see that our dedicated, grassroots Save Lincolnshire Libraries movement have been vindicated with the council’s begrudging acceptance of Greenwich Leisure’s proposal to to deliver and develop what is left of our library service.

The utter disregard for the people of Lincolnshire’s concerns for their much-cherished local libraries by Martin Hill and his Executive were founded on arrogant assumptions made about the library requirements of their young and old constituents. They appear to have assumed that nobody uses libraries because they don’t go themselves… I would argue that their failure to value books and information is what got them in trouble in the first place!

This entire wasteful exercise has become a prime example of the dangers of forceful, poorly considered, cavalier cuts to essential public services both locally and nationally.

“threaten, bully and criticise”

-It is worth remembering that they lost the first Judicial Review and had to pay over £100,000 of our money for the mistakes they made. They did not pay it out of their own pockets.-(Sent to the Lincolnshire Echo)

Dear Editor

I refer to the recent press release from Lincolnshire County Council concerning the Judicial Review of the library service.

[in this statement council leader Martin Hill states they are “consulting our lawyers regarding the recovery of our costs.” click here to read in full Council to seek costs for campaigners’ failed libraries challenge]

Here they had the chance to move forward and away from chastising local residents, taxpayers and campaigners who had the effrontery to challenge the decisions of our elected members. Instead they continue to threaten, bully and criticise those people who dare question what they do.

It is worth remembering that they lost the first Judicial Review and had to pay over £100,000 of our money for the mistakes they made. They did not pay it out of their own pockets.

They also produced an audit listing all the mistakes they made which resulted in the first Judicial Review. It is a catalogue of disasters.

They have repeatedly ignored the views of Lincolnshire residents expressed in the Council’s own Consultation ( where they admit they had already made up their minds on the future of the library service) and via online petitions and a whole book of comments from residents. Even some Conservative MPs disagreed with them.

They have now pushed through their own option for the future of libraries. There are already some question marks about the continuation of some ( Coningsby/Tattershall, Washingborough, Skellingthorpe, Donington, Crowland ).

However, there could be a silver lining. Despite the fact that at the decision making Executive meetings two Councillors admitted that they have not used libraries for decades, whilst another insisted that children no longer read and/or want books, the County Council does seem to have thought again about the needs of some local residents. In particular, I would single out those libraries in Ermine, Boultham and Birchwood, which are now being managed by paid staff, as well as eventually by volunteers. They are called “community hubs and libraries”. They are being managed by “Learning Communities “ which is a not-for- profit organisation, part funded by the County Council.

Perhaps someone, somewhere has listened, because they exemplify the calibre of service many people expect and deserve from their local libraries, especially in areas where people are more vulnerable.

Yours Sincerely,

Maurice Nauta, Hazel Burnett and Julie Harrison

Save Lincolnshire Libraries Campaign

Sad Day for Lincolnshire

“Having broken their promise to keep libraries open with the closure of three libraries already confirmed, the leader of the county council Councillor Martin Hill and Councillor Nick worth are trying to blame everyone else for the fact that they acted unlawfully before the first judicial review,” said John Hough on behalf of Save Lincolnshire Libraries.

“They should apologise for the mess they have made of the library service. Their failure to accept the offer from Greenwich Leisure to run the whole library service keeping libraries open across Lincolnshire as well as making the savings the County Council wanted seems to have passed them by.

“The County Council needs to show it is achieving best value for the money it spends and it also has a duty to look after the public service it provides.

“When Greenwich Leisure came along offering to keep services at a price the Council could afford, they should have snapped their hands off and gone with this. Instead they were determined to ignore this sensible option and to force communities to try and save their libraries.

“Many of the volunteers, who have come forward, have made the point that they felt it vital to keep the library open for their communities but they would far rather that paid professionals were running the service and taking responsibility.

“Simon Draper, as a man in the street, should be congratulated for having the courage to stand up to the Executive of the County Council, a billion pound organisation.

“While the British legal system has many faults, the fact that an individual can still take an all powerful executive to the High Court to expose the fact that the Council is acting unlawfully has to be welcomed. Long may that ability for the ordinary British Citizen to hold local government or national government to account continue.”

As the council plan is now live, the campaign will now record libraries closed for good in Lincs (with no volunteer hub substitute) and volunteers that have withdrawn their offers or made it clear their offer is not genuinely ‘voluntary’.

You can view this record here:

https://savelincslibraries.org.uk/volunteer-crisis/

Read the council’s press release here:

Council to seek costs for campaigners’ failed libraries challenge

 

Community Hubs Libraries, Sink or Swim…

Steve Palmer

Steve Palmer

Latest thoughts from key campaigner and independent Cllr. Steve Palmer

Thursday the 13th of August saw the official opening of the Sutton on Sea Community Hub and Library, formerly Sutton on Sea Library. Changing from professionally run and County Council maintained, to a volunteer run and managed service to the community.
As the good ship SS County Council steams off into the distance it throws a couple of life rafts in the form of a 4 year part finance package and a one off capital expense package. Completely ignoring the one hundred plus jobs that have sunk without a trace and the sharks circulating around a once proud Lincolnshire Library service that boasted 45 proper libraries that all people in the county could access with ease.
What are we now left with? 15 statutory professional libraries in bigger towns and then a post code lottery of community hubs and a reduced mobile service. The Executive at County will tell you it was to save £2 million pounds a year. It’s actually £1.73 million but what’s a quarter of a million eh? By the time you take out redundancy payments and other organisation change costs, the payments to community hub groups, the cost of two legal challenges, two consultations and lots of other on costs, was it all worth it?
It will be years before the tax payer sees any benefit in real terms and for what? A political ideal, The Big Society? After saying all that if I truly thought that the only way forward to save money and try to keep libraries open was the Executives plan I would support it, however it was not. It has been shown that an alternative, fully costed proposal could have saved the required amount but keep all libraries professional and encourage more community involvement on a truly volunteer support partnership if they wanted it, rather than hold heads under the water until people desperate to keep libraries open for their communities come forward.
We are lucky in Sutton on Sea because we have a high percentage of retired people, we have good people able to devote time and effort to volunteer and manage a library, not all communities will be that lucky. Also we had a head start as we already had a volunteer element in our library, opening an extra day a week to expand the offer of opening hours. It is interesting that 3 years ago when we started we had talks with the staff saying we would not threaten their jobs!
I wonder what the then staff think now? Most of the original volunteers in the group of that time have left because of the loss of staff, others through illness or other commitments. Alford lost all its volunteers en mass over an issue and most of them are now volunteering in other fields maybe less stressful roles? God bless volunteers, I am one, have been for years and despite all my hatred of what is happening to our libraries, community comes before politics so I will continue to do my bit in keeping ours open as long as there is a need, which at this time there is a proven one. How many executive councillors will be volunteering for their community hub leading from the front?
So the future of libraries? Time will tell. In the short term it will be very interesting to see how many community hubs actually open and to see how much effort County Council put into trying to encourage them, maybe even financially doing little deals here and there, I could not say? After all, it’s a post code lottery now and open for communities to negotiate the best deal they can get. In the long term it will be interesting to see how many do stay open past the 4 years when the payments are due to stop, when possibly rent for the buildings may start to apply and when pressures on volunteers may prove to much?
Much has been said about the legal challenges to the Executives decision to go down the chosen route and how it has held things up and how it has cost tax payers so much money. My answer to that is, we are all proud to live in a democracy, even though in my opinion it is an illusion of a democracy, people have died in world wars to uphold that. If people or groups of people care so much about an issue that they wish to challenge it and they see that 9 or 10 Executive Councillors all from the same administration have decided unilaterally over riding massive opposition to plough on with a hated plan, in their minds that will destroy a statutory service, what else could they do? Don’t forget although the last Judicial Review failed the first one did not, which proves something was not right with the process at County Hall in a judges opinion.
As to the expense to tax payers. I would be more convinced on this argument that revolves around legal aid being given to fund the challenge, if the Executives had paid for the defence of their decision themselves rather than the tax payer. You can’t have your cake and eat it, well maybe you can?
Not one single person supported the plan outside of the Administration Councillors and believe me for all opposition parties to vote against something is rare. In the consultation over 21,000 responses were all against and comments from Sheffield Hallam and the Judge reflected this. Sheffield Hallam noting no one was in favour at all. So we have seen the launch of the good ship Community Hub will it be a Titanic and sink on the first trip or a Queen Mary and give years of service? I for one would not buy a ticket to sail until it’s thoroughly tested and on calm waters.
One last question will HMS Government come steaming to the rescue with Captain Ed Vaizey at the helm? Unlikely, so don’t hold your breath, you will just prolong the agony. S.O.S. s.o.s. ……..
Best Regards
Cllr. Steve Palmer
Lincolnshire Independent spokesman for Libraries
Alford and Sutton Division