Thursday, 4 November 2010

Cornwall Libraries - future unclear

The future of Cornwall's libraries and One Stop Shops is no clearer after today's scrutiny meeting which was meant to look into the Conservative plans for the two services.

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


Charlotte MacKenzie said...

Paul Brough told Truro Community Library Board there may not need to be closures, but did not rule out some library services having reduced hours or volunteer support. Are you saying CC scrutiny is less clear? This is another example of people being kept in the dark on two fronts. Firstly, what will the proposed CC cuts mean for people at different locations in Cornwall? Secondly, your blog is a good read, but LD MPs are voting with the Tories while LD councillors in Cornwall hypocritically pretend the local consequences are nothing to do with you.

Alex Folkes said...

Thanks for the comment. I think that the library situation has become less clear over time. When we were briefed on the initial budget we were given a figure for the number of libraries that would close, but now there is no such certainty (even if it's the wrong certainty). Hence the confusion and need for more info.
We are trying to find out the scale of cuts in different parts of Cornwall. Some of the worst disparities seem to have been alleviated but we still need more.
I'm not an MP so cannot answer for them. What we are trying to do is to work with what we have. It's all very well saying that we should get more from central govt, but that ain't going to happen and so we need to seek to make the cuts with least impact on frontline services

Anonymous said...

First off, well done you and your fellow councillors.

Secondly - this sort of report is unspeakably depressing. Cornwall Council has some of the highest paid executives and yet simple, basic management seems to be totally lacking what with the temporary salary debacles and then wasting people's time and taxpayer money convening a meeting that they then don't bother providing basic information to and yet again, doubtless, no-one will be responsible for inadequate preparations and time wasting. *Sigh*

phil said...

I am not clear why you are being quite so coy about the number of libraries Cornwall Council wanted to keep open. It was 9 as is shown very clearly on Graham Smith's blog.

I have been seen the draft of Paul Brough's powerpoint yesterday. This contains all jargon used up country where councils are intent on closing libraries. the key phrase is services not sites.

If you don't live in Truro, St Austell or Penzance then your library is very much at risk. Alex is making it very clear that Cornwall Council wants to reach a budget decision without councillors being aware of its implications. If you care about keeping your library then learn the lesson from the Camelford Leisure Centres campaigners and kick up.

Ian Anstice said...

BBC article of 21st October is here...

It suggests library numbers may drop from the current 40 to just 14.