The scrutiny committee asked a range of questions about what services would change, which would move and which might face closure. To all of these we received the response that plans were at an early stage and there were no details available as yet.
We were also told that there are two groups looking at libraries. There is a members group which is looking at the bigger picture future of the service and an officers group considering individual moves and closures. The trouble is that neither of these meet in public nor publish their minutes or decisions and so there is no way that members can have scrutinise what they are doing.
Effectively, we were being asked to agree a total budget for the two services and we were told that savings would be made by closing some facilities and relocating them to other locations. But there were no details given as to which towns would be affected or what closures were planned.
And so, at the end of a frustrating afternoon, I proposed that we not accept the plans but instead express our regret at the failure to give us proper information and asked the cabinet to ensure that the detailed plans were given to us for consideration before the full council was asked to vote on the budget proposals.
Scrutiny is a vital function of any council. It is how we stick up for services both locally and across Cornwall. It is how we check that the administration is getting best value for money and that individual areas of Cornwall are not unfairly stripped of services.
I think that the Cabinet now has three choices:
- they can get all the details together and present them to another meeting of the scrutiny committee before the budget is voted on
- they can ignore us and press on with a budget that has no details on a vital service which is used by many thousands across Cornwall every week
- they can continue working on the libraries and One Stop Shop plans but take them out of the emergency budget and resubmit them for scrutiny once they are finalised