Surrey County Council decided yesterday to proceed with its volunteer-run library plans – plans that will see paid, professional staff removed from 10 libraries across Surrey and replaced with volunteers.
Conservative councillors at yesterday’s cabinet meeting lined up to expound the virtues of volunteers running libraries and, by implication, denigrate the profession of library and information professionals.
Let’s make this clear. Surrey County Council has freely admitted that removing paid staff and replacing them with volunteers will save no money. So given the free choice, SCC has decided that volunteers working one or two hours every other week will provide a better service than paid professionals with years of experience, training and knowledge.
Sensible, credible and cost-saving proposals put forward by Surrey residents to mix paid staff with volunteers were not even considered.
The decision taken yesterday would not stand up to the scrutiny of any reasonable person so let us make another thing very clear. This is a decision that was motivated solely by an ideology that says that all public sector workers are bad, therefore anybody or any policy that removes them must be good, no matter what damage is done to the service in the process. Normally this ideology is carried out under the cloak of “cost savings” but on this occasion the dogma is laid bare for all to see.
David Hodge knows that this policy does not stand up to rational scrutiny. That is why he blocked a debate on the libraries policy at last week’s full council meeting and also why he refused to allow residents’ questions to be answered at yesterday’s cabinet meeting (despite the answering of public questions being standard procedure at cabinet meetings). Avoiding debate and scrutiny is the last hiding place of a man who knows he can’t win the arguments in the sunlight of open debate. This should be a worry to all Surrey residents, not just those interested in the library service.
This irrational decision, and the preceding shambolic decision-making process, has re-stoked the anger of Surrey residents and library users that has been bubbling under the surface throughout.
Yesterday’s decision will not be the last word on the matter!