Campaigners all over the country spluttered with shock today at reading Ed Vaizey’s bald-faced assertion that he saved libraries from closures.  In a letter to the Telegraph, the Minister Previously Nowhere To Be Seen Doing Anything About Libraries, says:
“We have been active in reminding local authorities of this statutory duty, which is why far fewer libraries have closed than would otherwise have done so. We have also made it clear that the duty to provide a public library service will remain, and we will look seriously at any authority that considers libraries an easy target to close.”.
Any even vaguely neutral observer will know that Mr Vaizey has spent the last year looking the other way while library budgets have been cut and branches closed throughout the country.  He has hidden behind campaigners who did his work for him both by protesting against closures and in fighting costly judicial reviews.  What Ed has done is write a couple of letters so he can say he has done something so he can, presumably, hope to avoid being taken to court himself for failing to uphold the 1964 Act.  It is not because of him that anything has been done.  Many will feel that for him to claim that the work of thousands of campaigners nationwide was unnecessary because he wrote a line or two is deeply insulting:
“Um….what?? The nerve! The reason “less libraries have closed” is because of tireless work of campaigners like us ,who have been ignored by Vaizey, have done. How dare he!  If not for us 11 libraries would have closed – solely for cost reasons  – in illegal plans…meanwhile Vaizey still ignores us! Another month passes and still he has not answered our open letter. He has time to reply to this but not us!” Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries.

“I am pleased to see Ed reminding local authorities that the library service is statutory. I don’t really think however that it is his letter to councils that has deterred them from making more closures. That has a lot more to do with the sterling work of campaigners up and down the country. After all, the legal victories in Gloucestershire, Somerset and Surrey happened against a backdrop of deafening silence from Mr Vaizey’s department.” Alan Gibbons.

News
SIR – Your report (April 27) of a letter from council leaders suggests that local authorities might close libraries to save money because they are a “local discretionary service”, although the LGA letter does not mention libraries at all. Public libraries are not a discretionary service, but are statutory under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964. Local authorities are entitled to organise library services in accordance with local needs, taking available resources into account, but no authority should close a library solely to save costs. We have been active in reminding local authorities of this statutory duty, which is why far fewer libraries have closed than would otherwise have done so. We have also made it clear that the duty to provide a public library service will remain, and we will look seriously at any authority that considers libraries an easy target to close. Ed Vaizey MP (Con) Minister for Culture. London SW1″ Government needs to set out plans for the funding of care services – Telegraph (letters). See comment above.

  • Tory councils cut libraries more – Labour.  “8 out of top 10 councils for library cuts are Conservative run. Conservative Councils cut twice as much as Labour councils .  Labour is today publishing figures which demonstrate the cost of a local council being run by the Conservatives or Liberal Democrats, with library services being cut at twice the rate in Tory authorities than Labour ones. The average cut in a Labour council is around £400,000 but for Tory Councils it is double that – well over £800,000. Stephen Twigg [Shadow Education Secretary] will visit Upper Norwood Library on Monday 30 April to discuss the impact of Government cuts with staff and library users.”
“Libraries are an incredibly important part of our cultural fabric. As well as giving young people the gift of reading, they also give adults the opportunity to access advice, look for employment and get on the internet. “With one in three children without a book at home, it is worrying that the Government is overseeing a postcode lottery in library services.”

Changes

Local News

  • Croydon – Library consultation, Croydon-styleElizCro.  Article lists a long poor record of library cuts, with the council is failing once more with its consultation over Upper Norwood.
  • Doncaster – Volunteers will help library open longer – Doncaster Free Press.  “So far 26 people have volunteered their time to help with the running of Warmsworth Library for 17 hours a week, as residents felt it was vital the community had somewhere to meet, get books, or even have a quiet place to do work.”
  • Gloucestershire – County library call-in rejected – This is Glurcestershire.  “Councillors have today rejected a call to prevent funding being withdrawn from seven Gloucestershire libraries. The Liberal Democrat motion to force the Conservative administration to reconsider its plans was turned down at Shire Hall. Members of the overview and scrutiny management committee voted against the opposition call-in.The Lib Dems had said the strategy was not in order because the county council had failed to take nine matters into account when making the decision. The county council will now be able to proceed with plans to hand seven libraries to the community and reduce hours in others.”
    • Lib Dems in challenge on library cuts – Wilts and Glos Standard.   “Lib Democrat group leader Cllr Jeremy Hilton said: “The whole process for the strategic review of the library network has been shambolic from start to finish. In a letter to the council’s chief executive Pete Bungard, the group highlighted several “fundamental flaws” in the strategy, including access for vulnerable groups.” … “Lechlade’s library working group is not taking any chances and has already started the process of registering a charity, the Friends of Lechlade Library, to run the library should the cuts go ahead.”
  • Greenwich – Strike closed “11 out of 13 libraries” in Greenwich – News Shopper.    “Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “Our members have led the way in exposing GLL. “They are not worker led – they are a private company swallowing up public services.” A protest march is planned for May 5, leaving Eltham library at noon and heading to Woolwich library. A spokesman for Greenwich Council said all the libraries were back open today.”
    • Library workers strike in Greenwich – BookSeller.   “Close to 100 Greenwich library workers are on strike over plans to privatise the borough’s library services.”.  GLL say jobs are safe and they will not close any libraries [although it is notable that the council appear to have closed one – Ferrier – last week, just prior to the takeover – Ian.].
  • Lancashire – Row over Lancashire library service budget cuts – Lancashire Telegraph.  “Since 2009/10, the County Council has cut £5.1million from the library budget – down from £22.2million to an estimate of £17.1million this year.” … ” Council says While we do face tough economic times, none of the county’s 74 libraries have closed, and all front line services continue to be staffed appropriately.”
  • Leicester –  Changes made to library city plans – This is Leicestershire.  “Planned self-service libraries will now have staff – after hundreds of people told the city council they were concerned about the proposed changes. Earlier this year, Leicester City Council announced it wanted to axe librarians at Aylestone, St Matthew’s and Fosse libraries – moving books from two into nearby community buildings. Almost 800 people gave their views to the council as part of a consultation on the plans, with many saying that losing knowledgeable staff was their main concern. While the council still plans to axe most staff and install self checkout machines, it has promised to alter its proposals – ensuring a librarian will be present at all three sites for at least as many hours as the current library is open.”.
  • Surrey – Lingfield community group calls for formal meeting with Surrey over library – This is Surrey Today.  “The Guest House Enabling Committee, made up of community members, wants to take over the library’s trust status – but says the county council appears unwilling to let go because of the financial benefits. But the council insisted this week it has tried to arrange a meeting. Committee chairman Rita Russell told the Mirror: “We need some definitive answers in print from the council so we can take over the trust and work with the council on how to run the library.” The library in the Guest House, Vicarage Road, was left in trust by Arthur Hayward in 1954 to the county council, to be used as a library. The committee says it can run the library without the council because the site can raise money through rent from accommodation, so is self-financing.”.  Council is currently charging 20% admin fee for any maintenance work the trust will do on building.
    • Library plans back on the table at Surrey County Council – Guardian series.  ““Allowing communities to run libraries enables us to do this and it is still the council’s policy. “Although the council had done a lot of work to develop equalities training, the High Court ruled there should have been more detail in the cabinet’s papers about it at the meeting last September, so we are going to take the decision again, with all the information we need about volunteer training.”