Yesterday Gloucestershire County Council’s “scrutiny” committee met to consider the library “call-in”. The call in was rejected. The following is our response to this news.
We are disappointed but not surprised about the call-in decision. The last time the administration were attempting to push through almost identical, and deeply unpopular cuts, we witnessed a similar farcical “scrutiny committee” in which members voted according to party politics, rather than what was best for the electorate. With a committee that was largely made of up Conservative members we were under no illusion that the outcome would be any different. The whole library review has been a serious case of deja vu in which Gloucestershire County Council has failed to demonstrate that they have learnt any lessons from their court defeat in November 2011 when a high court judge ruled them to be guilty of “bad government”.
The fact remains that many of the questions put forward by the Liberal Democrats, who led the call-in, have not been answered. Gloucestershire County Council changed the criteria, with no consultation, in order to exclude three libraries from statutory provision. They have repeatedly failed to provide any explanation for this. The fact also remains that the elderly, especially women, are going to be particularly affected by the cuts. The Council has no realistic strategy in place to mitigate the extent of the impact upon this particular section of society. It is always disappointing to see political one-up-manship, being put before the interests of the public. Sensible, respectful and thorough scrutiny of these draconian cuts, cuts which are going to affect so many people in Gloucestershire, has never been allowed under the current administration.
When local elections come up in the future we would urge that the people of Gloucestershire remember the politicians responsible for the dismantling of our library service, in the face of overwhelming public outcry, and next time vote libraries!