Today (Tuesday 24th July), 18 months after it originally proposed the idea, Surrey County Council will again decide whether to proceed with its plans to remove staff from 10 libraries across Surrey and replace them with volunteers.
SCC’s cabinet will meet to make its decision at 2pm, County Hall, in the London Borough of Kingston-upon-Thames (ironically, not Surrey). We will be there putting our questions and submissions, and presenting petitions with over 5,000 signatures. A motion has also been put to cabinet by independent councillors asking for the library plans to be dropped, and Liberal Democrat leader, Hazel Watson, is also due to put a question to the cabinet. It should be a lively meeting!
There will also be protest outside of County Hall between 1pm and 2pm. We appreciate that many of you are at work and others can’t make it because the venue is too remote (not being in Surrey!) but if you can come we would love to see you.
Some things to remember ahead of the meeting:
- The library proposals were based on a Public Value Review (PVR) that was fundamentally flawed (and still is). SCC’s audit committee was convened (a very rare occurrence) and ruled that the PVR needed improvement. It has not been improved.
- SCC held a gun to the heads of local communities, telling them “volunteer to run your library or we will close it.” This is not a policy that has been enthusiastically received, as SCC would have you believe. Not one person in Surrey has asked SCC to remove paid staff from their library and not one resident has volunteered so that their library staff can be sacked.
- The Community Partnered Library (CPL) policy will save no money – not now, not in the future.
- The libraries policy was ruled “unlawful” in the High Court and that the libraries decision was “so unreasonable that no other reasonable authority would have made it.” The policy has not been changed since this judgment.
- SCC’s “equalities consultation” is generally considered as being “shambolic” both in its content and in its execution
- A number of credible, simple and cost-effective alternative to the libraries policy have been put forward by SLAM and by library steering groups. SCC has ignored them all.
- Library groups and SLAM have asked for meetings with David Hodge prior to the cabinet meeting tomorrow to find a reasonable way forward. SLAM’s meeting request was ignored and no concessions offered to library steering groups.
Tomorrow is decision day. Let’s hope somewhere around that cabinet table there are some wise and reasonable heads.