Update : Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries Media Statement

Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 31/07/12

In November 2010 Gloucestershire County Council (GCC) announced plans to close eleven public libraries, to reduce opening times to three hours per week at seven, and to axe the entire mobile library service. As a direct result of Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries’ (FoGL) campaign and the determination of local residents to fight for their service, four public libraries in the most deprived areas of Gloucestershire and two mobile libraries remain open. The 7 libraries with opening hours to be reduced to 3 per week now have a minimum of 12 hours. This follows a November 2011 ruling by the High Court, initiated by FoGL, that GCC had acted unlawfully in neglecting its equalities obligations. The Judge stated that GCC was guilty of ‘bad government’ and a ‘substantial breach of the law’, and quashed the plans entirely, forcing the council to go back to the drawing board.

However, seven public libraries are still closing, including in deprived areas and in areas where library usage is high. We have strong doubts as to whether the equalities impacts of these library closures and service reductions have been adequately considered and addressed. These plans are now being implemented and there remains a real danger that some of our county’s most vulnerable residents will lose out on access to this important and cost effective public service, which pre-cuts, cost GCC just 1% of its annual budget.

Over the last two years, FoGL and local communities have faced an uphill struggle in getting their voices heard by the administration and senior officers. GCC’s actions have made a mockery of local democratic procedures. The valid concerns of local residents about the feasibility of volunteers running and funding libraries themselves have been disregarded, and sensible and cost effective proposals from local communities, such as Lechlade, to save their library service have been dismissed out of hand. We are heartened to see that in communities such as Minchinhampton, local residents continue to campaign for the survival of their service, and residents in Hesters Way, Matson and Tuffley remain vigilant to future plans by GCC to cut the service they have fought so hard to keep. FoGL has taken the difficult decision not to pursue further legal action on a county-wide basis. We have been informed by Public Interest Lawyers, the firm who successfully represented Gloucestershire library users in the High Court, that there remain serious concerns around GCC’s revised strategy, but that these are better addressed by the Department for Culture Media and Sport and the Ministers with responsibility to superintend library services, Jeremy Hunt and Ed Vaizey. We will continue to keep DCMS informed of developments in Gloucestershire and encourage other local communities to do the same, and are pursuing this matter through the Parliamentary Ombudsmen.

We are very proud of what FoGL has achieved over the past two years. We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has supported the FoGL campaign, both from within Gloucestershire and across the UK who have shown that people use, love and value their public libraries, and will not lose them without a fight.

ENDS

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4 Responses to Update : Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries Media Statement

  1. Jim O'Neil says:

    Well done on what you have achieved so far!
    Would it be more use to contact EHRC rather than DCMS at this point? EHRC have a very fair (if long-winded and pedantic) procedure in place and it certainly helped, if not actually saved, Wirral libraries?
    Email me for more info if you wish
    Jim

    • Hi Jim,
      thank you. EHRC were complicit in helping GCC to write retrospective reports to paper over their old plans so they could re-release them with minimal change sadly. They were extremely unhelpful when we tried to have some input and discussion on the matter. It was sad to see an organization who are supposed to look out for and discourage equality infringements be a part of this. We strongly believe that what you suggest is something DCMS should have been doing from the start and should be doing now. The EHRC say they do not endorse these cuts plans they could only “advise”. Then they did nothing.

      • Jim O'Neil says:

        To quote a certain TV comedian – I just don’t belieeeve it – only it’s not really funny.
        Now, when’s the next General Election, then….
        Jim

  2. Pingback: Front page of Independent for public libraries

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