Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Nettleham Parish Council Responds to Lincolnshire County Council's Library Proposals Describing them as 'Irrational'

The following letter has been sent to Lincolnshire County Council's Head of Libraries and Heritage:-

Dear Mr Platt 
Re: Proposed changes to library provision in Lincolnshire 
Further to your letter and Information Pack dated the 20 June 2013, the Parish Council held an Extraordinary Parish Council meeting on 11 September 2013 regarding the above proposals and in particular the proposal to close Nettleham Library. 
At the above meeting the Parish Council unanimously resolved to formally object to Lincolnshire County Council’s proposal to close Nettleham Library in May 2014.  The Parish Council’s reasons for objecting to the proposals are summarised as follows:-
  1. As stated in your letter the statutory responsibility for providing Public Libraries lies with Lincolnshire County Council and the proposals to transfer your statutory function to voluntary organisations/Parish Councils is simply irrational.  
  2. The Parish Council acknowledges that Lincolnshire County Council has to make savings due to the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review, however, a 31% reduction in the library budget is totally unreasonable; cuts of 5-10% would be acceptable.
  3. If the £1.9 million reduction sought in the library budget was spread across those living in the county (over 700,000) this would equate to merely 5p per person per week, which illustrates the absurdity of your current proposals.  
  4. On the 50p coin that was issued in the year of the Millennium there is depicted “Public Libraries”, which was intended to celebrate 150 years (1850 – 2000) of such libraries across the whole of the UK. If LCC proceed with their current proposals, they will in effect be dismembering the work that was undertaken by our forefathers over that long period of time.
  5. These proposals would have a significant impact on children’s educational needs, especially in the current economic climate.  Furthermore the elderly population would be adversely affected as they would be unlikely to access the proposed retained libraries due to transportation/health issues, etc.  A large proportion of the elderly do not have access to IT equipment which is becoming more and more necessary to undertake day-to-day activities. 
  6. A library is not just about borrowing books; it is also a hub for seeking assistance from the professional library staff for a great number of activities including assisting with IT issues and gaining necessary information.
  7. The library service could continue to be undertaken by LCC if it adopted a more commercially astute approach in terms of the running of this service.  For example, Nettleham Library at present only occupies a 1/3 of the overall building and rather than expecting other organisations to take over the management of the library service, some of the remaining 2/3 of the building could be rented to small/medium sized businesses thereby securing an income that could be used to off-set the costs associated with the running of the library. 
  8. We have serious concerns in relation to the costs stated in the consultation document especially in relation to the support costs which were the highest in the country; some investigations need to be undertaken in relation to these costs. 
  9. The online consultation process was not user friendly and the timetable (being held during the summer period) was grossly unfair.  Moreover, the requirement to lodge an Expression of Interest before the end of the Consultation process was fundamentally flawed. 
  10. Finally, a topic of this magnitude should be decided by the whole Lincolnshire County Council voting on the matter and not by LCC’s Executive Committee; such an approach is quite frankly undemocratic. 
Despite its formal objection the Parish Council nevertheless decided as a fall-back position that it would submit, on a without prejudice basis, an Expression of Interest prior to the 30 September 2013 deadline. 

Local residents voiced their concerns over Lincolnshire County Council proposals on BBC Radio Lincolnshire yesterday (24th September) when Melvyn Prior broadcast for 3 hours from outside the library.

You can listen again to 'Melvyn in the Morning' by clicking here.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Nettleham Parish Council To Object to County Council Library Proposals

Last night Nettleham Parish Council decided to join with other parish, town and district councils across Lincolnshire in objecting to proposals brought forward by Lincolnshire County Council.

Lincolnshire County Council, like other local authorities across England, are dealing with a difficult financial settlement from central government. Substantial reductions, savings or new revenue stream need to be found to balance the authority's budget.

Among the ways to achieve this is a cut of 31% to the Library Service budget, which will require a reconfiguration of the service away from a local authority model to a model with greater community engagement, through the use of volunteers running libraries in rural areas. Nettleham is one library that the county council would like to see run by volunteers.

Nettleham Parish Council held an Extraordinary Meeting at Nettleham Village Hall, Brookfield Avenue to consider the county council's proposals. Cllr. Terry Williams, the Chairman opened the meeting and explained how the meeting would be conducted. He introduced his fellow councillors, the council's officers and welcome 35 members of the public. The Chairman outlined the county council's proposals before welcoming Mr. Gary Porter, from the Library Service, and Cllr. Mrs. Jackie Brockway, Conservative (Nettleham & Saxilby Division) to answer questions from the public.

Questions were asked about the process that political leaders would be taking, the county council's need to make spending reductions, difficulties at pilots with regard to volunteer access to computerised library management systems, the effect on reading groups and disabled access to alternative mobile library provision.

Following the question and answer session, Mr. Porter left the meeting. Residents were then given the opportunity to make their views on the proposals, all universally against the proposed changes.

Cllr. Mrs. Brockway made a statement, she outlined that she had been working hard to dissuade her colleagues at the county council from pursuing this policy and was not prepared to support it. She stated she was really please with the quality and thoughtfulness of the comments made by local residents and that it gave her encouragement.

Finally the members of the Parish Council would debate and discuss the matter. Each Parish Councillor spoke. Cllr. Malcolm Leaning - who is also a district councillor - Liberal Democrat (Nettleham Ward), harked back to his use and the arrangements of the bookcase at the Church Institute in the village.

Cllr. Giles McNeill, Conservative (Nettleham Ward), also a district councillor, spoke in favour of objecting to the county council's proposals. He said:
"There are plenty of arguments about the specific proposal for Nettleham and the proposals more generally. I would like to offer another option for those campaigning against these proposals to pursue. The County Council is run by a coalition of Liberal Democrats, Independents and the largest group is the Conservatives.
"The Liberal Democrats' manifesto from march makes no mention of the Library Service. However the Conservative Manifesto said this: 
"We will encourage more people to play their part in stronger communitites by encouraging volunteering and neighbourliness as well as a greater use of public buildings such as schools and libraries where approriate.  
"We Promise to... Continue a countywide library network with better access and opening hours. 
"I was Jackie's Agent in the recent local elections and Agent for nine other county candidates across the district, eight of the ten were elected. I have to say I am ashamed that so little regard is being paid to the promises made so recently."
Cllr. McNeill also stated that, following debate at the district council on the preceding Monday evening, he had joined the working party at West Lindsey District Council that would be submitting the district council's response to the proposals.

Cllr. Joseph Siddall described the 'consultation  document' as 'an insult to the word'. Whilst Cllr. Mrs. Janice Clayton, the Deputy Chairman of the Parish Council, wanted the county council to 'react positively to the public out cry and reconsider their position', however, she said she was 'a bit disappointed with the turnout tonight'.

Finally Cllr. Williams, address the meeting as a member of the Council, not in his capacity as Chairman, describing the proposal saying that the '31% reduction is wholly unreasonable' and that he hoped that as the provision of libraries was a statutory requirement that a case might be brought against the county council to the high court on the grounds that the decision was 'irrational', citing the use of the word in the case of the Police and Crime Commissioner's Suspension of the Chief Constable.

The Parish Council resolved to object in the strongest possible terms to the proposals for Nettleham Library and, without prejudice, would form a working party to put forward an expression of interest in a community led library bid for Nettleham; although it was made clear that this was a fall back position.