Public meeting on future of Gloucestershire library service: Report from attendee

The following report of Wednesday’s public meeting has been posted on ThisisGloucestershire by an attendee. Minutes of the meeting will be circulated via the FoGL mailing list (email foc.cheltlib@gmail.com to join) once they have been typed up. Many thanks to GAVCA for the provision of a venue for the meeting.

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A public meeting was held in Gloucester last night to discuss the future of the public library service in the county. Library users came from many different communities across Gloucestershire. In a packed meeting hall at the GAVCA offices on Eastgate Street, the front row was reserved for invited senior members of the County Council administration.  Several speakers expressed their disappointment that Gloucestershire County Council administration and officers responsible for library services had declined an invitation to the meeting.

The meeting was being held following the recent High Court ruling that the County Council’s proposed changes to the library service were illegal, which has completely quashed all the council’s cuts to library services. The news that the Equality and Human Rights Commission had been called in to help ensure that the Council comply with equality legislation when drawing up their revised library strategy was warmly welcomed.

But many serious concerns were raised, including –

  • Why is the County Council refusing to talk to users until after they have drawn up their proposals in January?
  • Would the date for the new library proposals of 20 January 2012 really allow the council time to conduct a thorough, equitable and lawful review?
  • Why is the council still promoting community funded and run libraries despite the fact that the judge had declared the proposals to be illegal?
  • Why had the County Council spent over £100,000 on legal fees and gone to the High Court instead of listening to the views of the people of Gloucestershire?
  • Why did the County Council make staff redundant before the High Court ruling, with the same staff now re-employed on casual contracts and at great expense?
  • Why does the County Council not explain how volunteers can have access to the library computer system when this is known to break the Data Protection Act?
  • Why are the cuts in Gloucestershire so severe? In Oxfordshire, for example, whilst cuts are taking place, the decision has now been taken that no libraries will close altogether, presumably to allow the service to be built up again in the future. This would not be able to happen with GCC’s proposals for non-statutory ‘community library’ provision and the sale or transfer of library buildings.
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7 Responses to Public meeting on future of Gloucestershire library service: Report from attendee

  1. I can’t say if the high-profile campaigner Philip Pullman or if the Oxfordshire MP being David Cameron had any provable bearing on the Oxon’s decision. I do know that there was an extremely strong campaign county-wide, with events with authors organised at many local libraries. The campaign was greatly helped by national coverage.
    Gloucestershire County Council must listen to library users and staff. The replacement of permanent contracts by casual contracts is an outrage.

    • Hi Pauline,
      We have been lucky enough to have a great deal of support from high profile people over the year https://foclibrary.wordpress.com/messages-of-support/authors-and-celebrities/ As GCC was one of the first to announce the cuts, and indeed one of the most draconian in it’s approach, we have been able to run a strong campaign that has been widely supported and championed. Alas, the Conservative MPs in the area backed the cuts and so did not speak up for us. We have had a lot of national coverage but Gloucestershire County Council, knowing that they were not going to be held to account by the democratic processes or by DCMS ploughed on regardless. Their arrogance and contempt for us has been astonishing.

  2. Joe K says:

    I received a reply to my FoI request a bit earlier than Jan 18th…

    The question:
    Dear Gloucestershire County Council,

    Having received no response from Councillor Antonia Noble on this
    matter, I am asking what public consultation/ council discussion
    took place prior to withdrawing Barton & Tredworth’s mobile library
    service?

    The reply:
    WILMSHURST, Teresa
    Gloucestershire County Council

    5 January 2012
    Dear Mr Kilker

    Request for Information (Reference 11/FOI/4177)

    I am writing in response to your request for information received on 15
    December 2011 concerning public consultation prior to withdrawing Barton
    and Tredworth’s mobile library service..

    Your request has been carefully considered and I am pleased to confirm
    that Gloucestershire County Council does hold the information you have
    requested:

    The Share-a-Book service has not been withdrawn. A new programme of
    planned visits is scheduled to begin in January 2012. This new schedule
    is based on information from the Early Years Service and will target areas
    of deprivation (based on IMD Indices of Multiple Deprivation) and will
    include visits to The Family Haven in Bartongate once these have been
    finalised. The service has never guaranteed regular visits beyond one
    year’s duration to specific locations. Visits are shared out to areas
    where there is identified need on a rota basis.

    The consultation about the draft library strategy took place between 18
    November 2010 and 11 February 2011 and mobile customers were provided with
    a letter explaining how they could register their feedback. Following the
    quashing of the council’s library strategy decision at the judicial review
    on 16 November 2011 the county council is now in the process of devising a
    new draft library strategy which will be subject to a new round of
    consultation. More information about this will be available in February
    2012.
    —————————————————–

    Bear in mind that this is what Antonia Noble told me…

    ‘A long time ago, Gloucestershire operated an urban mobile. We do not have any stops on our community mobiles in the Barton or Tredworth area.

    ‘I hope that this is helpful’

    The only Family Haven I know of is in Westgate, on Spa Road. There is a Bartongate Children’s Centre in B&T, and a map of the ward at the Barton & Tredworth Community Trust labelled ‘Bartongate’, which leads me to think someone might be trying to re-brand the ward. My recollection of previous visits by the mobile library is that it used to come on a pretty much two-weekly basis, at least, but I suspect it won’t be any more often than the answer above suggests now.

  3. Kay Powell says:

    That’s interesting, Joe; but what exactly is the Share-a-Book scheme? The county council’s own website doesn’t explain it, simply telling readers to email for more information. I don’t feel that the Share-a-Book scheme has anything to do with the mobile library, so I believe that the reply that you’ve been given is somewhat disingenuous.

    • demelzajade says:

      Hi Joe and Kay. I think that Share a Book is part of the mobile service, but targets specifically children in less well off communities – could be wrong though.

  4. Joe K says:

    Cheers, all. With that in mind, I’ve annotated my request, and ticked it as still awaiting an answer. Interestingly, it still says they are obliged to reply by Jan 18th, even though Teresa Wilmhurst has said she ‘will now close your request as of this date’…

    http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/information_sought_on_mobile_lib?post_redirect=1

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