Lisa Nandy MP’s article on library services

I’d like to recommend Lisa Nandy MP’s article which highlights that local authorities around the country – and may I add regardless of political affiliation – are being placed in great difficulty to meet the Government’s frontloaded cuts targets without affecting frontline services.

The Coalition Government’s cuts are just too deep and forcing the removal of vital frontline services such as libraries. In fact in Brent 6 are due to close, one of which, I am a regular user of, located within my Ward. It is unfortunate to have such a vital local service removed because of national decisions having local consequences.

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3 thoughts on “Lisa Nandy MP’s article on library services

  1. I’m sorry I disagree that the coalition are forcing the removal of library services in Brent. It’s down to each individual council on how to deal with the cuts in their grants.

    Someone somewhere in the council has brainwashed the Labour executive into thinking that closing 50% of the libraries is the only solution. It isn’t the only solution to meet the cuts, but the council has so far refused to engage us in a meaningful intelligent dialogue towards working to an alternative that keeps residents and the accountants happy.

    I think the council should appreciate that a U-turn on this policy would not be seen as a political climb down to be exploited by their feeble conservative opponents who I have on numerous occasions invited to come up with an alternative strategy without proper response. Instead residents would see that the council is willing to put people before politics. The question is is a young councillor like yourself wiling to help put the argument forward?

    I do hope so.

  2. yes I am and I have been making representations to that effect. Politically it’s something that noone wishes to do. It is unpopular and we are elected politicians.

    Unfortunately the Council has to legally meet the cuts targets set by the Government – where the Council doesn’t, auditors will.

    While we could have afforded in the past, and would still like to have many local libraries, £104 million out of a £260 million is a lot of cuts to make – The Council’s budget has been decimated and Brent Council and the services we offer will look very different in 4 years time – There is little room for manouvre. What we are seeing is the dismantling of our welfare state. Where Government departments have received reductions of around 19%, Brent Council has to make cuts of 28% over the four year period. These are designed to shift the blame to local Councils. We are making cuts of around £60 in efficiency savings in the way that the Council works – but the other £40m will have to come from services. But it’s also worth noting the Coalition cuts programme which moves at double the speed that Labour’s programme would have as they try to cut the deficit. If we went at Labour’s speed of reducing the deficit within 2 Parliamentary terms we would face the prospect of making around £50million rather than over £100million and all of these could have been achieved without touching any frontline and local services. This could have been met by Council restructuring.

    The Council is committed to community groups presenting Big Society ideas to take over the running of libraries. If you have a library you are interested in and you feel you haven’t been listened to with your proposal, I would happily point you in the right direction.

  3. Thank you so much for willing to debate this on your blog. It’s good to have a grown up conversation about this.

    You say that “would still like to have many local libraries”. This is a complete contradiction to Cllr Powney’s public comments, is it not? He’s stated quite clearly that the council wishes to see a _fewer_ number of higher quality libraries. I’m pleased to hear that not all the labour councillors agree with this over-centralised vision.

    Indeed the plans to close libraries pre-date the coalition government’s budget cuts by a number of years. Were you not made aware of this in your briefing documents? All that has happened is that the budget cuts have created a climate whereby the council can pursue a long standing aim but putting the blame on others.

    It has also create a climate whereby they can close my local library, Preston Library, and bank the freehold property sale money, when management consultants hired by the council previously recommended that it be expanded.

    It has been suggested to me that the remit given to council officers to slim down and then prepare our library service for privatisation was instigated by the Conservatives when they controlled the council many years ago. Indeed so far they have not denied these allegations when put to them in writing.

    You mention the “Big Society” phrase. This is a conservative principle, which in some sense I think is a good thing, but in another sense allows the government and the council to wash its hands of its responsibilities onto people. What’s the point of paying taxes and electing officials if we end up doing their job anyway?

    I resent the fact that we’re having to give up our private times to come up with an alternative proposal just because a small set of people have blinkers on and refuse to see the bigger picture and the harm that these proposals will do to generations to come.

    The people of Brent gave the local labour party a humongous majority at a time when the labour government was very unpopular. In return it seems we are getting conservative plans and policies being implemented. This is probably the real reason why the conservatives are trying to exploit the situation for political gain but have so far refused my attempts to discuss what their alternative proposals would be (given that just can’t say everything stays the same, the money still has to be saved).

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