The Leicester Mercury have posted my email to the members of the Council’s Scrutiny Committee on their website, which I thought I’d also share here:
Re: The Scrutiny meeting on proposals for the library service, 15th October
I am very concerned that the remit of this meeting was to discuss the 16 libraries remaining open and how to manage the handing over of the remainder to communities.
My understanding of a consultation is that it seeks ideas and feedback and incorporates these into policies and plans.
This has not been the case with the consultation on libraries – and the agenda of this scrutiny meeting suggests that the consultation has indeed always been a “done deal”.
The consultation presented communities with inaccurate statistical data reflecting the use of libraries – the evidence was fundamentally flawed.
The consultation presented only one option – for communities to take over the running of libraries, or face losing them – which is blackmail. There are no true choices being presented here – this was no consultation.
The consultation, supposedly based on an earlier survey about which services should bear the brunt of cuts, told communities at the public meetings that libraries were at the bottom of the pile – this was not true, as your own analysis of the survey results proved, with a significant number of people defending the vital importance of their library service.
And now the scrutiny committee is looking at the one proposal put forward by the Council – not the ideas suggested by the people.
Remember that the High Court ruled in favour of local campaigners in Lincolnshire, against the County Council.
Yet this is still the tip of the iceberg for all our public services are under threat.
And let’s not forget – the Council has £97 million in reserve, has made staff redundant then re-employed them, and the expenses of councillors are questionable.
There is an obligation to protect vulnerable people, which is why the Council is required to perform Equality Impact Assessments for every proposed cut. Yet every cut will hit the most vulnerable. What sleight of hand will the Council use to get these cuts through?
The structure of local government should be reviewed for efficiency, to reduce duplication; do we need district councils in their current form? We don’t need Mayors or dignitaries. We don’t need executives with chauffeur-driven Jaguars. We don’t need heads of department on pay comparable to the private sector. Our overhaul of services must include an overhaul of the political infrastructure. There is much money to be saved here.
Councillors have blamed the Government for these draconian cuts and this is true. But while the Government pursue their agenda to dismantle or privatise every public service, they are cleverly pitting the people against their own Councils. And while we fight for individual public services, we don’t see the whole picture, and we don’t apportion blame in the right place. If all our Councils were to stand up to Government, the people would support them. We are all concerned, frightened, in despair. We should all work together and act together to oppose all these cuts – in that way we can make a difference.
I appeal to the Council to be honest with the people of Leicestershire, and rather than try to enlist us to run essential services, to ask us to support the Council in standing up to central Government, to protect the needs of the many rather than the interests of the privileged few.