Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Libraries - the first damp squib of many?

I had been waiting with great anticipation for the Administration’s review of the proposed changes to the library service – the first of their 3 headline issues together with Flood Defences and Care Homes. We heard all sorts of criticisms about the redundancies of qualifies librarians, the need to protect our library services and the unsuitability of using volunteers to support the service and I was sure that under a culture enthusiast like Graham Longley the changes would be reversed and the current system maintained. After all it was almost his first press quote to block the implementation of the changes pending the review. I happen to think the original decision was right but would have no problem with the Administration delivering the required savings in some other way if they felt able to justify it. Whilst it still requires approval from full council I was therefore shocked by the recent decision of cabinet. It has not reversed any of the previous budget saving and reiterates 2 issues which were already under way, namely the combining of the 2 Shoebury libraries and the relocation of Southchurch library to more suitable premises. The “big” change is that rather than designating 2 libraries for operation by volunteers (albeit supported by the remaining network) they are spreading the qualified librarians more thinly and filling the gaps with volunteers. Nobody who read the election material distributed by some supporters of the current Administration before the election or who heard their comments on the subject would regard this approach as consistent with the line being spun to residents. All they have offered is a minor tinker which was considered but rejected by the pre election cross party working party. Obviously this latest decision has not been taken following full input from all political parties on the council. Questions must be asked. If maintaining the library service was such a priority before the election why have they not put their money where their mouth was? How many qualified librarians who were to lose their jobs will now be retained due to this policy change? If volunteers were not a reasonable approach to library provision why does the new policy continue to rely on them? Do they accept that this change will have a potentially adverse effect of Leigh, Kent Elms and The Forum? Residents who believed they were voting for something different have a right to be disappointed but perhaps should brace themselves for a similar reaction on a number of other headline policies over the coming months.

No comments:

Post a Comment