Inaccuracies and misleading claims in new GCC cabinet report on library cuts

This week, we obtained a new Gloucestershire County Council Cabinet report on the future of Gloucestershire’s libraries.

Please see below a letter written by former Assistant Head of Gloucestershire libraries, John Holland, to the Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS), in response to the extraordinary claims made in the report.

DCMS are the central government department with responsibility for superintending libraries. We hope that DCMS will soon intervene in Gloucestershire County Council’s plans, and are meeting policy officials from the department next week to present our case.

Dear DCMS,

I attach for you a new cabinet report by Gloucestershire County Council about the Future of Gloucestershire Libraries. There a number of glaring errors and omissions in this report.

The principal one is on page 7 (section 5 i), which states, in relation to the methodology for the review that-

“Hot spots where the data significantly differed to the Gloucestershire norm were highlighted and considered. Wards found to be in the top 10% of the country’s indices of multiple deprivation were assessed as one of the criterion (sic) for evaluating how future library services could be considered.”

This contradicts what I, as Assistant Head of Libraries until 2010, know to be the case, and what GCC has stated publicly on a number of occasions previously.

For instance, the report provided by Councillor Antonia Noble, cabinet member for libraries, at the Special Scrutiny meeting of 14 Feb 2011 says this

“It is important to record that these principles for outlining future library provision were not solely a matter of ‘geography’, as usage was also an important factor”.

Just geography, levels of use and nothing else!

Councillor Noble repeated this damning summary of the methodology again verbally at the Full Council meeting of 16 Feb 2011 which made the final decision to cut library services.

In other words, there was no consideration of “the general and specific needs of adults and children who live, work and study in the area.” (Vaizey)

Nor was there any consideration of, or information about, “how the plans will take fully into account the demography of the area and the different needs of adults and children in different areas (both in general and specific terms)” (Vaizey)

Jo Hand, Library Manager (Operations), member of Libraries Senior Management Team, was able to confirm this methodology to me at a consultation meeting in Stroud Library.

Now with DCMS and a legal challenge breathing down their necks, GCC decide to provide a revisionist statement of their methodology.

I have no doubt that deprivation indices were examined. I know because I examined some when I worked for GCC. However they were definitely not applied to the methodology and had no impact on the proposals made. Put simply, if GCC had considered and applied deprivation indices, then the 4 communities in the county with the worst deprivation indices (ie Hester’s Way in Cheltenham, Matson and Tuffley in Gloucester and Brockworth) would not have been named for closure or community funding.

It really won’t wash.

Also in the report, you will note that there is no reference to

  • The reduction of the book fund from over £1 million in 2009-10 to £500,000 in 2011-12 and to £400,000 in 2012-13
  • The negative nature of the libraries AND GCC budget consultation results after the announcement of the proposals
  • The fact that the community run libraries will NOT be part of the GCC library network and will legally be clubs rather than public libraries (although if you can break the code you can see on page 7 that the GCC network will consist of “Main,” Express” and ”Library Link ” libraries only and not community funded libraries
  • The fact that all the 5 mobile libraries are being axed.

John Holland

Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries

Former Assistant Head of Libraries, Gloucestershire

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