At public consultations and meetings Gloucestershire County Council have often mentioned that they are having talks with other partners about rationalising library services in partnership with other services.. When asked for details they say they cannot disclose this information. We have been told by some angry Parish Councillors that they have been completely bypassed in these talks. We know that GCC have been having talks with a “main partner” for libraries since summer 2010 (Cllr Noble confirmed this herself when asked at a consultation drop-in)
There was some talk in the local press that hinted that the police authority is one such partner. Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries submitted a Freedom of Information request to GCC on 7th January 2011 asking for details of any partnership discussions with the police authority. GCC answered the FOI saying
“we do not hold any information relating to this request as Gloucestershire County Council does not have an agreement with the Police regarding libraries. We have only entered into discussions at this stage so there is no documentation”
The response to a separate FOI submitted to the Police Authority says otherwise:
Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 s1, I can confirm that Gloucestershire Police Authority holds some relevant information. No formal agreements exist, although proposals around potential opportunities to share accommodation are being explored. Documentation relating to this is currently exempt by virtue of paragraphs 3 and 4 of part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972, and therefore closed to Freedom of Information requests.
The response goes on to say:
We will talk with the public in order to find out views on our proposals in due course and feedback will be carefully evaluated. We understand that Gloucestershire County Council is also carrying out full public consultation around proposals relating to libraries and a final decision will not be made by them until June 2011 at the earliest.
But the public have been “consulted” about the library proposals (the consultation period ends on the 11th February) with NO knowledge of these plans and no detail is being provided! How therefore were we supposed to make an informed contribution? Why the secrecy? Furthermore, the library proposals were voted in at a cabinet meeting on the 2nd February therefore further “consultations” will be pointless. Are the current library proposals really about what is best for our library services and the communities they serve or have the Library Link sites only been chosen in the places the county was already having talks with other partners about rationalising library services in partnership with other services?
This is hardly transparent and it makes further mockery of the so called “consultations”.
UPDATE: Today the police issued a press release saying they ARE the “main partner” of the library service. Well, well, well GCC considering you had “only entered into discussions at this stage so there is no documentation” a few weeks ago this was mighty quick work! Consultations are planned AFTER the library proposal, to which this partnership is crucial, has been voted in by council – and here we go folks….another sham “consultation”, another done deal, and another failure of democracy.