We were shocked to learn that Gloucestershire County Council, which is making some of the most severe cuts in the country, is not planning to spend all its budget in 2011-12. Rather than spend the funds on cost-effective and well-used library services, the council will be holding back £1.2 million to invest in its already substantial reserves.
This revelation was made by Council Opposition Leader Jeremy Hilton (Lib Dem – Westgate) during last week’s full County Council debate of the 13,000 name petition calling for an independent review of planned 43% cuts to the library service, and was repeated by Mr Hilton during an interview with BBC Radio Gloucestershire.
Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries believes that these funds should be spent to keep library services open in the county.
At the Council meeting we were told by Council Leader Mark Hawthorne that any reduction in cuts to the library service was impossible as ‘every penny counts’. Yet GCC seem to have a spare £1.2 million lying around to invest in its reserves! If the council is keeping these funds for a rainy day, it has arrived. Despite a 13,000 signature petition showing public strength of feeling, the County Council has not apparently noticed that it’s pouring down!
Use of these funds in this way is contrary to advice given by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, who said that councils should ‘raid their piggy banks’ before cutting jobs and frontline services.
If made available, these funds would halve the cuts to public libraries and may mean that the council is not in breach of the 1964 Public Libraries Act.