On Friday 20th January, the GCC Cabinet met to discuss their newly released second attempt at a library strategy. Former Assistant Head of the Gloucestershire library service and FoGL member John Holland attended the meeting, and has written this report of proceedings:
Consultation on new library plans gets go ahead: Gloucestershire County Council Cabinet Meeting 20 January 2012
Gloucestershire County Council’s Tory Cabinet today approved the new draft library strategy to go ahead for consultation. Public consultation begins on 30 January and will last for 6 weeks.
Today’s meeting was a carefully stage-managed affair in which all councillors spoke in serious and positives tones about the library service and its importance. There was little of the usual arrogant back slapping and cynicism, even from Councillor Hawthorne. There were no others items on the agenda. Director of Operations (Education, Learning & Libraries) Jo Grills led the way with a powerpoint presentation, and then Councillor Hawthorne, in the chair, took members through the Cabinet Report.
The county council could clearly feel the hot breath of Judge McKenna on its neck, with constant and repeated references in the reports and verbally at the meeting to equalities legislation and the 1964 Public Libraries Act, and how seriously GCC took these.
What else did we learn at the Cabinet Meeting?
In answer to my question, Cnllr Hawthorne stated that there were few changes from the last library strategy because “the core of the previous strategy was sound”.
In answer to a question by Cnllr Hilton, Councillor Hawthorne revealed that the stock fund (aka book fund) for the next 3 years will total £1.4 million. This works out at £460,000 per year which is nearly a 60% cut from 2008-9 when cuts began in earnest. This is totally inadequate.
Councillor Antonia Noble, responsible in great part for the last library review and much ill feeling, and such a poor advocate for libraries, did not attend the meeting. According to Cnllr Hawthorne, she has not been involved in the new strategy, which is being led by Cnllr Hawthorne himself.
Cnllr Hawthorne said that he wishes “community groups, campaigners and political groups” to suggest alternative proposals, and said that these would be “explored”. He asked that these be based on the same budget as the new proposals. Not easy as the financial projections for each library’s share of the savings has not, to my knowledge, been published.
There have been no proposals as yet for the rural mobile library service, and there were many references to the need to provide a different model for its use. It’s particularly important that mobile library users engage in the new consultation process when it starts on 30 January.
All the cabinet papers are here-
The Council’s new library strategy and background papers are here-