Louth Eye
 A guide to Louth in Lincolnshire since 2004

LCC Ignores Opposition And Closes Libraries Anyway

December 3rd 2013

The county council executive has voted to wreck Lincolnshire's library service. The meeting at 10.30 on Tuesday 3rd December couldn't really be called a debate, because it soon became clear it would be a rubber-stamping exercise.

The executive heard a summary of the amended proposals put forward by Jonathan Platt and Jenny Gammon, which I won't repeat because I try to avoid profanity whenever possible.

Mrs Pauline Palmer, wife of the Lincolnshire Independents' Stephen Palmer, put forward a detailed counter-proposal which involved charging for internet access. She didn't speak at this meeting, but Jonathan Platt was very critical of those plans, saying " "the proposal relies on a computer charge, and this provides a barrier". He also criticised Palmer's plan due to high management costs, blurred boundaries between volunteer and paid staff, and various aspects of the financial part of the plan.

It's fair to say these alternative proposals were given short shrift, and Jonathan Platt and Jenny Gammon's amended plan was the only one that the executive seemed to give serious consideration to.

Non statutory?

Certain politicians and council officers have been engaging in strange labelling tactics to mitigate the perceived impact of what they're doing. Jenny Gammon spoke of the tier 3 and 4 proposals for mobile or community libraries as "non-statutory". There's nothing whatsoever that's non-statutory about them, this is merely an attempt to re-label it ready for further cuts down the line. Gammon also claimed that "the main response mechanism was the survey", even though the 23,000 signature petition outnumbered it three times.

Councillor Martin Hill described Jonathan Platt's proposal as "a remarkable achievement," and later "a logical and sustainable model county-wide." Time will tell how sustainable it is to have 30 more libraries in the county operating under a voluntary model. Nick Worth has even suggested that this will lead to more libraries being opened than we currently have. Councillor Worth also spoke about 146 additional mobile stops, but that is misleading. The new plan will mean 167 fewer stops, and although that may look a whole lot better than nearly every mobile stop being cut, as per the original plan, it's still awful.

Occasionally a flash of common sense shone through the delusion and self-congratulation. Jonathan Platt said: "It's the level of volunteering that is a particular concern. That may leave us open to challenge, particularly from the trade unions." The executive did not like the idea of charging for internet access, and that's something I can get behind now that the government is moving towards making more services only available online. Councillor Patricia Bradwell also highlighted computer access as being an important issue for her constituents.

SLL campaigner Angela Montague tweeted that "this meeting is just back patting and more volunteer grooming". @AtomicLyn tweeted: "You know what's sustainable? Council run libraries, not voluntary run libraries dependent on bidding for grants."

Author William Hussey's response was: "Right, I'm off to lay a wreath outside my local library, @LincolnshireCC. Seems only appropriate. Sad, sad day."

"Disappointed in @LincolnshireCC passing motion to destroy library service. Volunteer-run libraries ARE NOT LIBRARIES." Lesley Firth tweeted.

You can read more reactions under the hashtag #savelincslibraries.

Volunteer for everything

I do wonder whether the Tories have properly considered the implications of a volunteer-run economy, their beloved "Big Society". If everyone did things out of the goodness of their hearts, we wouldn't need any of this yucky money, at all. We could just burn it. Instead we could simply guilt people into volunteering to build our homes, feed our families, and make our clothes. There would be no taxes to pay. Everyone would simply volunteer according to their means, and benefit according to their needs.

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