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It is with disappointment that we report the SCC Communities Select Committee decided today not to refer the libraries decision back to SCC’s cabinet for reconsideration. This means that SCC will now remove paid staff from 10 libraries across Surrey and seek to replace them with volunteers.

In an intense four-hour meeting, witnesses were questioned robustly, debate was often heated and tempers were lost at times. SLAM, representatives of the community libraries and opposition councillors made the reasoned  case for the decision to be referred back to cabinet to enable other more reasonable alternatives to be considered.

But although the case to refer back seemed unanswerable, the politics of the situation was always going to play the last card. In a committee made up of 7 Conservative, 2 Liberal Democrat and 2 Resident Association councillors, the final vote was perhaps inevitably 7-4 in favour of proceeding with the volunteer-run library policy, with all 7 conservatives voting for the policy and all opposition councillors voting agin.

We note that there are County Council elections next May. For the record, councillors voted as follows:

For proceeding with the CPL policy

  • Steve Cosser – Conservative – Godalming North
  • Chris Norman – Conservative – Chertsey
  • Angela Fraser – Conservative – East Banstead
  • Dennis Fuller – Conservative – Camberley West
  • Mike Bennison – Conservative – Hinchley Wood, Claygate and Oxshott
  • Denise Turner-Stewart – Conservative – Staines South and Ashford West
  • Richard Walsh – Conservative – Laleham and Shepperton

Interestingly, none of the above are councillors for the affected communities

Against proceeding with the CPL policy

  • John Orrick – Liberal Democrat – Caterham Hill
  • Colin Taylor – Liberal Democrat – Epsom and Ewell South West
  • Eber Kington – Residents Association – Epsom and Ewell North
  • David Wood – Residents Association – Epsom and Ewell North East

 

SLAM is currently taking advice and will be responding to today’s decision in a few days time.

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Ideological plans to make ten libraries in Surrey volunteer-run face fresh delays after Surrey County Council’s Communities Select Committee “called in” the libraries decision for further scrutiny.

Under SCC’s constitution, any three members of a select committee can, under exceptional circumstances, call in a decision made by the cabinet for re-assessment. The committee can then request the cabinet reconsiders its decision. The constitution also states that the council must not make any moves to implement the plan until the scrutiny process is complete, at the earliest.

Residents’ Association (Jan Mason) and Liberal Democrat (John Orrick and Colin Taylor) members of the Communities Select Committee demanded the call-in due to the decision being irrational and unreasonable, and due to evident public outrage over the decision. The decision, they say:

  • does not have adequate justification,
  • does not abide by the High Court Order of 1st May, having not taken fully into consideration the High Court judgment of April 3rd 2012, and
  • has not been scrutinised by council or by any committee since the library plans were ruled unlawful by the high court, since the announcement that the plans would save no money and since the “shambolic” equalities consultation.

Full grounds of the call in are here.

The special meeting of the Communities Select Committee (the call in) will take place at 10am on Thursday 16th August at County Hall, (London Borough of) Kingston-upon-Thames and will call witnesses including Council leader, David Hodge, volunteers, members of volunteer steering groups and a SLAM representative.

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