It has been bought to our attention, in an article in the local press, that Gloucestershire County Council has been in talks with an “established charity” and that, should the community libraries fail, it will step in to run them.
Cllr Theodoulou said that should the volunteer scheme fail he believed there was an established charity waiting in the wings, which had offered to run the county’s community libraries if they were in danger of closing
Has this been their plan all along!? This discussion has happened behind closed doors as none of us know anything about this. This raises several concerns. Who is the charity? What expertise do they have? what knowledge do they have of running a library service? what is the charities agenda?
Ethical, moral and sustainability issues also arise. Charities are suffering badly in times of recession. They have faced unprecedented funding cuts and volunteers are being spread more and more thinly as authorities are asking them to fund and run public services. What assurances are there that this charity will be in a position to run these libraries in a few years time? Gloucestershire County Council are grasping at straws and are placing the future of important public service on a wing and a prayer!
Cllr Theodoulou is out of touch with his electorate and, instead of listening to them, chose to follow party lines. In the article he makes it sound like the County Council had no other option but to make Lechlade residents fund and run their own library. This is not true. Other perfectly viable options were put forward but ignored with no valid explanation provided https://foclibrary.wordpress.com/2012/04/01/a-desperate-plea-from-a-gloucestershire-community-to-council-leader-mark-hawthorne/
Feedback to the County Council libraries consultation also showed that people in the areas affected where overwhelmingly against the community run library model.
Gloucestershire County Council are passing off their statutory responsibilities onto the already stretched charity sector. Gloucestershire County Council’s refusal to listen to and discuss alternative options made it very clear that their decisions were not made out of necessity but ideology. Cllr Theodoulou has let Lechlade down.
It is an improvement on the “if they fail they fail” attitude that the County Council held before they were forced to reveiw their plans following their high court defeat, but the future of these libraries remains uncertain, and it is inaccurate to claim there was no alternative.