Harlow UKIP propose “viable solution” to solve library closure threat
News / Tue 30th Apr 2019 am30 08:52am
HARLOW UKIP has written to Cllr. Susan Barker – the Essex County Council Portfolio Holder for Customer and Corporate – with responsibility for Libraries to suggest a sensible solution to the Libraries closures proposed by the County Council.
Harlow UKIP are proposing that they set up a “Harlow Libraries Community and Charitable Trust” to run the five Libraries in Harlow.
This would allow the County Council to put in the funding they are planning to in their budget, whilst setting the service free to an arm’s length Trust who can set about applying for grants from elsewhere – such as Harlow Council, National Lottery, Education Trusts, Essex Recreational Trust, Stansted Airport Charitable Trust, and maybe even McDonalds who have a Charitable Trust. Also as a Charity it will be able to accept donations from any source.
Harlow has a good record of making a success of such Trusts – look at the Sports Trust, the Arts Trust and the Recreation Trust in the recent past.
An organising Committee can be formed from community leaders and the service can then go from strength to strength.
Mark Gough, Secretary of Harlow UKIP said “This is a sensible and workable common sense solution for the Library service. Many have said how important the service is, and I add UKIP’s voice to that. I see this as a solution everyone can unite behind. Labour and the Tories have been trying placards and petitions which do not do much to find a solution. This proposal is a viable solution.”
This is interesting in that it would appear on the face of it to conflict directly with the County Council's statutory responsibility to provide. An overarching organisation holding the purse strings, and reliant on ECC and other 3rd party grants could in theory be a practical solution, but it seems not to recognise the legal responsibilities. What would be required, for this to work, would be a complete revamp of the Libraries and Museums Act. I commend UKIP for taking a practical approach to this problem, and proposing a creative solution. But I fear that as the law stands, the county council would be prevented from endorsing such a solution by their legal department, given their statutory obligations would thus be fulfilled by an organisation not directly associated with ECC.
It appears not to be a new idea, but part of Government Guidance published in 2018. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/libraries-applying-for-funding/potential-funding-sources-for-libraries
Actually it is our idea. That's not info I knew about kthe5. But it does show it is viable and has some pots of money available. Pyotr - Harlow Council has a statutory obligation to provide waste collection - yet contract's it out to Veolia - I'm not seeing how this would be any different!
The problem with this “viable solution” is that it is unfortunately based on the false premise that Essex will offer sufficient support for Tier 3 and Tier 4 Libraries. With regard to Essex statutory responsibility - Essex have to provide a library service - yes they could legally externalise the provision - but they would have to continue to commission it and fund it. The debate is over what level of service can be deemed adequate to fulfil this statutory responsibility. Essex are arguing that Tier 3 and 4 Libraries are no longer required as part of a statutory provision and so they do not have to fund them In their consultation document Essex County Council make it clear that they are only willing to provide very limited support for Tier 3 Libraries. The expectation being that these “community libraries” would be “run from premises owned or paid for by the community groups”. Essex County are also anticipating that most if not all Tier 4 libraries across the County will close. They even state how much money this will save - £974k (An arguably totally unnecessary saving as the County Council has reserves of over a Billion Pounds!) So currently it is proposed by Essex County Council that Mark Hall and Tye Green Libraries will close (as these are Tier 4 Libraries) And Great Parndon Library in Staple Tye will only survive as a hollowed out “community library” if an organisation can be found to accommodate in another building some of the existing books, provide "volunteers" to run the service, provide computers and internet connections and meet all of the ongoing revenue costs. Never mind what will be lost in skill and knowledge of the professional librarians who run the existing services. So by all means let us look at ways to strengthen the links between the Libraries and the communities they serve across the town. Let us enhance the service they offer and make them attractive places to be. We could do this by for example establishing a Friends of Harlow Libraries whose aim could be to support initiatives to promote Library usage and community related activities. But it's role would not be to replace professional staff with volunteers. So please do not let the County get away with their proposal to opt out of statutory responsibility for three out of the towns five libraries which thereby put these libraries at risk of closure. Below is a link to the Essex County Council Consultation website – which spells out their existing proposals in more detail. https://libraries.essex.gov.uk/libraries-consultation/read-the-strategy/our-core-offer-and-tiered-approach/ Our core offer and tiered approach - libraries.essex.gov.uk The consultation is now closed. We are analysing your feedback and reports will be presented to Cabinet in summer 2019. We propose to deliver a core offer through a range of physical and online services and take a tiered approach, based on evidence of need, to where we provide library services around the county in future. libraries.essex.gov.uk
"Actually it is our idea." I'm not suggesting you recycled established government guidance as a "new" idea. "That’s not info I knew about" As a senior member of Harlow UKIP I suggest you learn how to use google. It's the first hit when searching "library funding uk".