In 2010/2011 Surrey County Council Library Service underwent a public value review – details available here and here. As a result of this review the following recommendations were made to a Cabinet meeting on 1st February, 2011.
(1) To agree to work with Parish Councils, local charities, community groups and organisations, with the aim of inviting interest to establish community partnership at selected libraries, and co-designing and developing a Surrey model for locally managed and partnered libraries, with a progress report to Cabinet following the consultation period.
(2) That local committees lead in driving the community partnering approach for libraries forward.
(3) That consultation with existing users of the mobile library borrowers and equality advisory groups be agreed, to co-design a sustainable and value for money service including consideration of appropriate and affordable support to enable borrowers to continue to access library services, with a focus on using e-technology, community transport and voluntary driver schemes. This requires a proportion of savings to be redirected to providing alternatives. The actual cost will be unknown until consultation is completed, but initial estimates suggest a maximum total annual cost of £109,000 is required between 2012-13. It is expected that this sum would reduce by 15% per annum in 2013-14 and 2014-15. In 2012-13 net annual saving would be £330,000.
(4) That withdrawal of the mobile library service be agreed. Thereafter annual savings of £439,000 in library controllable expenditure savings and £7,000 in annual corporate savings (insurance and parking) would be achieved.
(5) That implementation of the action plan should start immediately, led by Peter Milton, Head of Library Services.
(6) That progress be reported on a quarterly basis to the PVR Steering Board and the Safer and Stronger Communities Select Committee.
(7) That the recommendations set out in the implementation action plan, attached to the submitted report, be agreed.
Reasons for decisions:
To move the Public Value Review of Surrey Library Service into the consultation and implementation phase.
[The decisions on this item can be called in by the Safer and Stronger Communities Select Committee.]
In practice, this means that:
- Eleven named libraries – Bagshot, Bramley, Byfleet, Ewell Court, Lingfield, Molesey, New Haw, Stoneleigh, Tattenhams, Virginia Water, Warlingham – are to be handed over to local communities to run.
- All mobile libraries in Surrey are to be discontinued.
The recommendations were called in by the “Select Committee for Safer and Stronger Communities” on 8th February, 2011 by Councillors Wood (Liberal Democrats), Goodwin (Liberal Democrats) and Mason (Residents Association), as follows.
The Select Committee debated the situation and requested Cabinet to rethink their decision to turn eleven libraries into “community partnered libraries” and remove the mobile library service. However, the original decision was upheld by Cabinet and the full webcast of the meeting can be viewed here (15:56 – 1:11:38).
Following this decision, a number of campaign groups formed to fight these changes.
Amongst other things, campaigners from the libraries currently under threat have been asking:
- Why these libraries were chosen?
- What will happen if volunteers do not take over responsibility for running their local library? Will it be closed? No clear information has been given about the future of these libraries if volunteers do not take them over.
- Will eleven libraries be the start? Even though eleven libraries have been named, the County Council is offering other libraries to community groups.
- Why trained professional staff are being removed from libraries to be replaced by untrained volunteers?
- Will savings be made?