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Posts Tagged ‘david hodge’

The call-in of the cabinet’s decision to proceed with volunteer-run libraries is tomorrow (16th August 2012) between 10am and 1pm in the Aschcombe Room, County Hall in the London Borough of Kingston upon Thames. All are welcome to attend.

The special meeting of the Communities Select Committee will decide whether to refer the library decision back to the cabinet for reconsideration.

Witnesses have been called to address the Communities Select Committee and answer questions as follows:

  • Helyn Clack – cabinet member for community services
  • David Hodge – Leader, Surrey County Council
  • Sue O’Connell – Chair of Bramley Parish Council
  • Jenny Meineck – Ewell Court Library
  • Lee Godfrey – SLAM

Another prospective CPL announces its dissension

The Friends of Stoneleigh library, the group expected to take over Stoneleigh library should the CPL policy be approved, are the latest group to have sent an open letter to SCC CEO David McNulty announcing their disquiet about the CPL policy and ask for sensible amendments to the flawed CPL policy.

Their complaint highlights that their volunteers came forward because they were led to believe running their own library was the only way to save enough money to keep it open. Now SCC has admitted the policy will save no money they are demanding their paid staff and library management system back.

The letter was sent on 11th July and, as yet, they have had no reply. The Friends of Stoneleigh library are not the first group to have been ignored by SCC and I suspect they won’t be the last.

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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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The attached video is provided courtesy of www.getsurrey.co.uk. It was shot before and after last Tuesday’s (24th July) SCC cabinet meeting.

There is a quick interview with council leader David Hodge at the end of this clip in which he says that he would prefer we stopped using the word “library” and instead use the term “community centre.” So this is what the policy is all about – closing libraries and using the buildings for other purposes.

The Community Partnered Library proposals cost more money than they were originally designed to save which is why SCC admitted to the policy saving no money. So paid staff remaining in place would cost less than the CPL policy PLUS all of the benefits identified by David Hodge can be achieved with paid staff in place.

Sadly, volunteers are being exploited for the purposes of Conservative Party ideology. And that is despicable!

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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!

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Over the past eighteen months we have become used to Surrey County Council ignoring residents and refusing to listen to genuine concerns but even we were shocked by the draconian behaviour of council leader, David Hodge, at Tuesday’s (17th July) full Council meeting.

Cllr Eber Kington (Epsom and Ewell North) had tabled the following motion:

The Council calls upon the Cabinet to review its current Community Partnership Library policy so as to develop a more widely supported alternative.’

Council Leader Hodge stood up before the motion could even be put and stated that debating the motion would be “inappropriate” because cabinet members were present and it would not be right for them to be influenced by the debate.  Many councillors raised their eyebrows or shook their heads in surprise, even on Hodge’s own Conservative side of the chamber.

Council chair, Conservative Cllr Lavinia Sealy, asked David Hodge what he wanted to do and after repeating what he’d previously said, Hodge said he did not want the motion debated.

Pressing Hodge further, the Chair told Mr Hodge that he could not just bar the debate – he could either let the motion be debated or refer the debate to a committee. In the end, a reluctant Mr Hodge said that he would be “happy” for the motion to be “debated” at the cabinet meeting where, sadly, compliancy and sycophancy are the rule and scrutiny the rare exception.

And that was that. The debate was barred before it even started, democracy snuffed out at a stroke. Cllr Kington argued that the council had not debated the issue in a long time and a lot of important and pertinent things had happened since, like the High Court ruling the plans “unlawful”, the admission that the library plans would save no money and the “shambolic” equalities consultation. Cllr Kington further argued that councillors for the affected communities had not had their chance to put the case for their communities and that, at 244 pages long, the submission to cabinet in support of the libraries proposals clearly required scrutiny and debate.

But no. There was to be no debate on the issue. Councillors would not be given the chance to represent their constituents.

We should add that we have had no response to our letter offering a compromise and asking to meet David Hodge to discuss a way forward. There will be no meetings, no listening, no compromise.

In the short time that he has been council leader, David Hodge has made it very clear that he intends to administer a draconian, un-listening regime – one in which dissent, alternative views or debate will not be tolerated. David Hodge has stamped his iron fist on the table and, presumably, we are all now supposed to bow down and accept his will.

David Hodge should know that one of the key drivers behind SCC being taken to the High Court was that residents felt let down by the lack of a democratic process, that residents had been ignored and that genuine concerns had simply been swept aside.

After our efforts at conciliation, SLAM supporters are beginning to feel that another injustice is about to be committed!

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On the 24th July Surrey County Council Cabinet is due to reconsider plans to remove staff from ten libraries across Surrey and replace them with volunteers.

In reconsidering the decision SCC must, by Court Order, abide by the judgment handed down on 3rd April 2012. The Council must this time show due regard to its public sector equalities duty (PSED) and it must this time make a reasonable decision*.

Whether SCC will have done enough to abide by the court order by the 24th July remains to be seen. This is a battle that could run and run…and run.

But we don’t think it is in anyone’s interest for us still to be arguing over the libraries policy in another year’s time. We have, therefore, written a letter to council leader, David Hodge, proposing a compromise that will enable all parties to move forward.

We have proposed that paid staff and the library management system remain in place for stability, sustainability and to meet the needs of vulnerable groups, but that volunteers could assist in the delivery of services and be able to have a greater say in what additional services are offered.

We have further suggested that a community consultative group (CCG) is set up at each library – a forum in which volunteers can contribute to a shared vision of how their library can provide better and new services for the local community.

Our proposal costs no more, and probably less, than SCC’s current proposals and it is a solution around which the whole community can unite.

We hope that SCC gives the compromise serious consideration.

*(in failing on Wednesbury principles – para 109 of judgment – Mr Justice Wilkie judged that SCC had made a decision that was “so unreasonable that no other reasonable authority would have made it”)

CILIP’s policy on volunteers in public libraries

CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) reformulated its policy on library volunteers in June 2012 (http://www.cilip.org.uk/get-involved/policy/statements%20and%20briefings/pages/use-of-volunteers.aspx). We reproduce the policy below:

CILIP believes that society benefits from the contribution that trained and skilled library, information and knowledge workers make to developing and delivering services. We do not believe that volunteers should undertake core service delivery or be asked to replace the specialised roles of staff who work in libraries.

Volunteers have long supported and provided highly valuable additional support, working alongside qualified and paid staff, and they should be acknowledged and valued for this role. They should also be given appropriate role descriptions, training and management.

CILIP is opposed to job substitution where paid professional and support roles are directly replaced with either volunteers or untrained administrative posts to save money. This applies to all library and information services in every sector.

If this happens services will suffer and will be unsustainable. What remains would be a library service unable to serve the community comprehensively, support people’s information needs or provide everyone with the opportunity for learning and development.

CILIP will not assist in recruiting or training volunteers who will be used to substitute the role of qualified, trained and paid library and information workers.

We acknowledge the difficult times that we live in, but now more than ever, high quality information services are vital to people’s lives, and local communities, learners, workers and businesses need the support of a trained and skilled workforce to thrive.

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We sent this brief open letter to Helyn Clack, SCC cabinet member for community services, earlier this week. In the letter we ask for confirmation that the 10 libraries earmarked for CPL status are now no longer under threat of closure.

It is minuted in many SCC meetings over the past 16 months that the aim of the CPL policy is to save £195,000, and that if volunteers do not come forward to run the libraries then SCC will consider those libraries for closure. Now that it has been established by SCC that removing paid staff and replacing them with volunteers will save no money – indeed, that cost saving is no longer the justification – it is reasonable to assume that the libraries are financially sustainable as they are and are, therefore, not under threat of closure.

We have received many emails, letters and calls from volunteers asking to seek such a clarification because, they say, the threat of closure was the sole reason they came forward to volunteer. They say that they would much rather the professional staff ran the library and that they only agreed to volunteer as a last resort. We think it is only fair to the volunteers that SCC clarifies its position.

Helyn Clack has not yet responded to our letter but she did manage to give an interview to Get Surrey website (http://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/s/2115284_libraries_campaigners_criticised_by_councillor).

 

In the interview, Helyn Clack denies any knowledge of the letter but we have established that she has, in fact, received it. She also criticises SLAM for providing “opposition for opposition’s sake.” We (all of us Surrey residents) have campaigned for well  over a year now, have raised very many legitimate concerns and issues alongside many other Surrey residents and in any number of mediums, have organised protests and demonstrations, petitions that attracted thousands of signatures opposing the CPL policy. My goodness, we even went to the very great trouble of taking SCC to the High Court, and we won. All of this, according to Mrs Clack, is “opposition for opposition’s sake.”

It is tempting to feel insulted by Mrs Clack’s dismissal of the campaign and her disdain for Surrey residents. But truth be known, we feel sorry for her. Mrs Clack is obviously feeling the strain and is lashing out. She is being put in front of the media by her leader, David Hodge, and being made to justify a policy that is now unjustifiable. She is trying her best for him but with each interview her answers get weaker and weaker, her justifications making less and less sense.

But we have a limited amount of sympathy for Mrs Clack, and much more sympathy for the now long-suffering and stressed staff that have had the damoclean sword of dismissal hung over their heads for nearly 18 months without any good reason.

SCC’s library staff, Surrey residents and the volunteers that came forward in good faith to “save their libraries” deserve an explanation and some assurances.

We call on Surrey County Council to confirm that the ten libraries potentially affected by the CPL policy are no longer under threat of closure.

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