Latest news: Following the Judicial Review, on 16 November 2011, Judge Martin McKenna ordered the unlawful plans below be quashed. GCC has now published a revised strategy, announced on 16 January 2012. See links to the revised proposals and our reaction to them here
A quick guide to the council’s plans for our library service:
The council will stop running at least 10 of our libraries
- These are: Hester’s Way, Matson, Brockworth, Bream, Newnham, Mitcheldean, Tuffley, Minchinhampton, Berkeley and Lechlade
- The council is going to ask the community to pay for and run these libraries
- If we can’t take on this expensive and difficult task, the libraries will close.
- Some of these libraries are in the most deprived areas of the county
Mobile libraries and the housebound library service will stop
- The elderly, disabled and other vulnerable members of our community will be particularly affected by this cut.
Another 7 libraries will probably close
- These will be: Bourton, Moreton, Nailsworth, Stonehouse, Churchdown, Prestbury and Wotton.
- The council says it needs partners to help pay for and run these libraries and share the premises. If these people can’t be found, the libraries will have to close.
- Even when run by the council and a partner organisation, they will have a severely reduced service with less books, less services, self-service machines and minimal staffing (around 3 hours per week).
- The council’s name for these will be “library link”.
Another 11 of our libraries will have a greatly reduced service
- These are: Bishop’s Cleeve, Up Hatherley, Chipping Camden, Fairford, Tetbury, Winchcombe, Lydney, Charlton Kings, Quedgeley, Hucclecote, Cinderford and Longlevens
- They will have less stock, fewer services and less staff. They will only open 3.5 days a week.
- The council calls this “library express”
24-hour ‘virtual library’
The Council says that lost library services can be replaced by a ’24 hour online virtual library service’. They say that they will invest in and improve the current online library service, but haven’t said where the money for this will come from. This will be no use at all to the estimated 4 in 10 people in our county who do not have internet access, many of whom are likely to be elderly people or those on low incomes.
Why are these plans so bad?
- The plans are based on a “conversation” with the public which had 5000 respondents. The council says these plans are what we want. But 5000 is only 0.83% of Gloucestershire’s population. It is not possible to tell what a whole community wants from the views of less than 1%
- The areas where libraries face closure include the most deprived and most isolated in the county. The elderly, disabled, the unemployed, children and other vulnerable people will be particularly affected by the plans
- Some areas targeted are facing significant other cuts, including the loss of youth centres and bus services
- We will end up with a “postcode lottery” where if you live in the ‘right’ area of Gloucestershire you will have access to services that others do not
- The proposal for volunteers to run libraries with minimal assistance from the council is unfair and misguided. The public should not be expected to pay again for a service paid for in their taxes, particularly if they live in less affluent areas
- Running a business as complex as a library will be beyond the means of most volunteers in terms of funds, skill, time and effort required. There are reasons why professional librarians exist!
- Other libraries in the country have tried similar systems, in which libraries are run mainly by volunteers. These have not worked well. Gloucestershire’s plans are more severe than these. They are effectively experimenting on us by trying something that has never been tried before.
- It won’t save much money! Libraries only represent 1.45% of the council’s budget, yet 43% of the service is being cut
- The plans may be illegal. Under the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act, councils are obliged to provide a “comprehensive” library service. It is possible that the council will be failing this legal requirement
But how else can the council save money?
Councillors who’ve met with our group have said that the cuts can be made elsewhere without affecting frontline services so severely. Although some form of cuts are expected to most public services, we feel it is disproportionate to cut 43% of a service, especially as libraries represent a tiny section of the council’s budget (less than 1.45%!)
It is likely that cutting libraries will actually result in increased costs to other public services. The Job Centre and Citizen’s Advice Bureau refer people to libraries. They will have to replace the services that libraries offer. Schools will have to provide new services, as crucial services for children will be lost. Many doctors use the “books on prescription” service to help patients understand and cope with medical conditions. Losing this may result in increased costs to the NHS.
As a group, we are demanding a transparent, independent and comprehensive review of the council’s plans, with particular attention paid to the impact on our community.
So what can we do?
Please see the ‘petition’ section of the site and complete the petition. We are thrilled to have smashed our original target of 5,000 signatures, and have so far collected almost 12,000! This has secured a Council debate of our demands, which will take place on Wednesday 19th January. We are still collecting signatures, both on paper petitions and online. Please also write to your local county councillor, your MP and to Antonia Noble, cabinet member with responsibility for libraries, and Mark Hawthorne, the County Council Leader.
Continue making good use of your library service and encourage any other library users you know to join the campaign.
Tell the council what you think of their plans and how they will affect you by filling in the “consultation“
Join us – the Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries
The only way we can change the plans is by making our voices heard! The council have claimed their plans are what the people of Gloucestershire want – we need to let them know that this is not true!