CommentThis apocalyptic headline is due to the Local Government Association (LGA) throwing the gauntlet down at the Government today.  It warned that services like libraries would need to effectively end if the Coalition continues with its proposed cuts to local councils …. 

“.. our model shows a likely funding gap of £16.5 billion a year by 2019/20, or a 29 per cent shortfall between revenue and spending pressures. We have also modelled the funding available for individual services within the projected resource constraint. On the assumption that demand in social care and waste are fully funded, other services face cash cuts of more than 66 per cent by the end of the decade. Assuming that capital financing and concessionary fares are also funded in full, the modelled cash cut for remaining services rises to over 90 per cent … Reductions on this scale would be highly likely to leave councils vulnerable to legal challenge. Many of these service blocks have statutory elements which may not necessarily be prescriptive but have already proven to be highly-contested, such as spending on libraries and road maintenance.”  Funding outlook for councils from 2010/11 to 2019/20 – Local Government Association. (LGA)

The report says that the Government therefore needs to lessen its reductions to local government or , reading between the lines, there’s going to be deep trouble. This effective blackmail of the coalition is most interesting from an organisation whose Chair and largest political group are both Conservative and shows how serious it fears the situation to be.  It’s blackmail because the report directly links the services most likely to be cut with those services which are the most popular and whose cutting is “highly-contested”.  This shot across may be meant to tell the Government that it cannot continue the fiction that deep cuts can be achieved through efficiency or other methods and that the electorate will notice.  The wording makes very clear that the electorate will notice and will fight, and it uses libraries as one its principal poster boys.

“The LGA, which represents 373 councils in England and Wales, warns that in order to manage a £16.5 billion shortfall councils may have to significantly reduce, and possibly cut, entire service areas …  Improved efficiency will not be enough to cover the huge funding gap … The report comes out at the same time as the results of a new YouGov survey into the use of local government services which reveals that libraries and leisure facilities are the most popular services councils provide, with 39 per cent of respondents saying they had used or experienced a library in the last year or so, and 27 per cent a council-run leisure facility. In contrast, just 11 per cent of residents had any experience of elderly care provided by social services.” Popular council services under threat – LGA.

The cuts that we have seen to libraries so far have already shaken Conservative areas like Oxfordshire, Surrey and Gloucestershire.  They could shake the LGA too, as a reader of this blog (take a bow, Ruby Malvolio) estimates that the annual cost of that organisation is around £56 million.  It goes much further than that though: the tone of the LGA report suggests that further cuts could shake the  Government.

  • Graph that shows squeeze on council budgets – Westminster Blog (Financial Times).   “The LGA anticipates that the main council grant will be cut by around 30 per cent in next year’s comprehensive spending review. (It is already being sliced by 28 per cent during the current Parliament).”
  • Many council services will disappear by 2020, report warns – Guardian.  “Public libraries and leisure centres may disappear by the end of the decade unless councils receive an immediate injection of money, a report has warned.”  Most of the 70 odd comments are concerned with cuts to libraries.
  • Services “to end over council cash” – London Evening Standard.  Local government minister Bob Neill appears to claim that finance reforms and efficiencies will solve the shortfall.


  • City without libraries – Saudi Gazette (Saudia Arabia).   “Libraries play a vital role in shaping generations, cultivating a taste for reading and appreciating masterpieces. It is truly said that “Except for savages, books have ruled the world”. Sadly, we do not find libraries in Jeddah in our vicinity. While driving around the city, I am always looking for a sign saying “Public Library”, but I am always disappointed. There is a dire need for well stocked libraries, with books in different languages. There should be at least 10 libraries in the city. Libraries can be a cultural hub for all the nationalities residing in Jeddah.”
  “Remarks were made at Free Library of Philadelphia event for his book “Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt”. Chris Hedges is a terrific speaker and writer. If you are interested, he writes a column for: – you can find his articles under “columns” near the top.”


Local News

  • Bexley – Charity Greener Bexley to run Bexley Village library from July 19 – This is Local London.  The charity will lengthen the library’s opening hours from 16 hours each week to 25 and plans are in the pipeline to introduce a cafe, wireless internet and an art lending library. Although the library remains free, users will have the chance to pay an annual subscription allowing them to borrow more books and enjoy longer loan periods.” … “Items borrowed from the library remaining on loan after July 19 will need to be returned to one of the council’s 11 other libraries.”
  • Croydon – Lack of information causes confusion … again – Save Croydon Libraries.   “Although LSSI have followed Civica by withdrawing from the process there are still four potential providers, yet to be short-listed, as an in house bid was accepted from Wandsworth after LSSI withdrew. Yet despite speculation that the whole process is falling apart there is no real sign as yet from Wandsworth or from Croydon that they are wavering from their intention to wash their hands of their libraries, with only saving money as their prime, some would suggest their sole, motivator.”
  • Durham – County Council withdraws pay offer days after announcement – Northern Echo.  “A Council has apologised after promising library staff, already facing reduced working hours, a major pay rise – only to withdraw the offer a few days later. Durham County Council bosses wrote to library staff, thought to number more than 100, telling them to expect significant pay increases as part of a major job evaluation exercise affecting thousands of staff. However, the workers soon received letters informing them a mistake had been made. Unison claims that mistake is worth £1,800 a year for senior assistants and £1,300 a year for assistants.” … “Staff were angry, disgusted and disappointed and some believed it was not a mistake, but an active conspiracy to undervalue their roles and avoid improving their pay” union claims.
  • Gloucestershire – Community fights back for library – This is Gloucestershire.  “New plans are afoot to keep Up Hatherley’s library open for 35 hours a week. This is less than its current 47 hours, but more than the 28 originally proposed for the Hulbert Crescent facility.”  Parish Council chairman thinks community will accept this … “”I have not heard any vibrations from the community, so I think people will be able to live with them. Up Hatherley came top of the shop for library usage during the county council’s studies and I think that has been recognised. I don’t believe people will be inconvenienced by the new hours.””
    • Volunteers turn over a new leaf at Painswick’s community library – This is Gloucestershire.  “Painswick welcomed 96 people to its first two openings on Wednesday and had 25 bookworms through while the market was there on Friday morning. The volunteers were hugely optimistic that after school on Friday and on Saturday morning, there would be lots more inquisitive visitors.”
  • Hampshire – Eyesore Gosport post office may move into library – News.    “‘There will need to be a lot of discussions but this is an exciting prospect where the public and the private sector will be working together. I’ve heard about post offices being set up in the backs of shops and pubs before but never in a library.’” … “‘This would see the library service not only take on responsibility for operating a post office, but also managing the staff and the quality of the service delivered. ‘People are using libraries differently these days and they are quickly becoming hubs for community activity.”
  • North Yorkshire – Libraries hit a high note – CILIP.   “Judges for the 21st CILIP Libraries Change Lives Award have rewarded staff at North Yorkshire County Council and North Yorkshire Music Action Zone for showing the powerful and positive impact that libraries have on their communities.”

“The winner, ‘Library Songwriters: Skipton Rewind Club’ offers teenagers the chance to meet with library staff and a youth worker to develop their song writing skills, using the library as a cultural centre. However, with hard work and dedication from all of those involved, it has done much more than that. The project has encouraged continued engagement with the public library, curbing the decline that usually occurs when children enter secondary education. But song writing and library use is only part of the story. Skipton Rewind Club provides youngsters with a safe space to build their confidence and friendships and through developing and delivering their own events, the teenagers learn vital transferable skills that will help them in an increasingly competitive jobs market. As a reward for all of their hard work, CILIP even arranged for the teenagers to perform at the Houses of Parliament for MPs and ceremony guests. Fittingly, they performed a song written especially for the occasion.”