And in case you missed it… Doncaster are ‘giving’ another 8 libraries to volunteers

Volunteering Opportunities at Doncasters’ Libraries.

As though this is a good thing.  As though access to information, reading, democratic process, technologies, assisted/guided by paid, trained professionals, is not needed by Doncaster’s Demographic.

Those being ‘given’ to volunteers this time are:- Armthorpe, Askern, Bentley, Cantley, Conisbrough, Hatfield, Woodlands and Tickhill.

It beggars belief.

And there is little we can do.  Once a Judicial Review Appeal fails, where else do you go?

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Keep an eye on Sheffield….

As they are proposing pretty much what Doncasters’ successive Mayors have done here.  BUT Ed Vaizey appears to actually care about this one!  Could it be there is a General Election closer than there was whilst our services were being destroyed???

Ed Vaizey’s Response to Sheffield Council’s Library Cuts – from Public Libraries News Blog, Sept 18th.

Broomhill Library Action Group – Images of Ed Vaizey’s Letter.

On a side note, we salute the work of the volunteers keeping the branch libraries open.  Often against little of the promised support and with permanent fights and hassle.  We hope you are not finding it too onerous and are being supported so that some of the professional services previously provided in your areas are still forthcoming.

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National Consultation on the dire Public Libraries circumstance

It has just come to the notice of SDL Towers that, local consultation here now being over (hope you had your say) there is a National Consultation into the appalling current circumstance.  Below is lifted from the South Yorkshire Funding Advice Bureau blog and was published there on March 6th.  Not long now – take part please.

Two Government Departments have jointly commissioned a very rapid independent report on the current structure and role of English public libraries, including community libraries, as well as identifying any opportunities for future delivery.

Interested parties can tell the investigating panel what they think about the following:

  1. What are the core principles of a public library service into the future?
  2. Is the current delivery of the public library service the most comprehensive and efficient?
  3. What is the role of community libraries in the delivery of a library offer?

They’re asking, so make sure you tell them what you think!

Evidence must be received before 5pm on Friday 21 March 2014  and should be sent to:

Library Secretariat Department for Culture, Media and Sport 4th Floor 100 Parliament Street London SW1A 2BQ

email Library-secretariat@culture.gsi.gov.uk

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Consultation Period nearly at an end

PLEASE do not think that your voice is unimportant.  Every person who remains silent is taken as a person consenting to the Council’s plans.  The Consultation into Library closures and reforms is nearly at an end.  You can take part via an online survey or in person, a few meeting dates are still to come.  Doncaster Library Consultation information can be found by clicking on the link herein.

Finally – do not think that by becoming a Community Library, i.e. one run by volunteers, that this safeguards the future of that library.  The lovely volunteers of Bessacarr Library, who, anecdotal evidence tells us, have been successful and popular, are suffering a further blow as their library is proposed to close entirely and combine with Cantley Library.  Should this be a warning?

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Time to have your say… Latest consultation now available.

Consultation has begun in the latest round of swingeing cuts affecting Doncaster’s public libraries.  This time those proposed to become run by volunteers (a.k.a. Community Libraries, or ‘Run it or Lose it’ Libraries) are:- Askern, Armthorpe, Bentley, Cantley, Conisbrough, Hatfield, Tickhill and Woodlands.

The key paragraph in Mayor Ros Jones Budget proposal is this.  “This will mean a further possible 8 community managed libraries in addition to the 12 already in place across the borough. There is the potential for community managed libraries in these locations: Askern, Armthorpe, Bentley, Cantley, Conisbrough, Hatfield, Tickhill and Woodlands.”

Yes, of 24 libraries in Doncaster, the proposal is that only 4, FOUR, will be council-staffed and managed.

So – have your say NOW!!!! Print copies are available at your local library (the irony!). If you require a copy in an alternative format, please email: Doncaster Libraries Consultation.

Doncaster Public Libraries Consultation.

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The rumours – are not as bad as the actual proposal!!!

Here, copied and pasted exactly, is the element of the Mayor’s Budget Proposal that pertains to the Libraries.  Read it and weep.

5. Libraries, Museums and Archives – £0.8m

As a minimum, we must deliver:

 A ‘comprehensive and efficient’ library service that meets local needs within the context of available resources in a way which is appropriate to the identified needs of the communities they serve.

 Some kind of reasonable archive facility accessible to the residents of Doncaster.

The savings will be delivered by:

 The Libraries, Museums & Archives services have moved from Finance & Corporate Services directorate to Adults & Communities and will be merged. Posts will be removed as a result of the merger delivering £0.25m savings as follows:

o merging management posts across the services

o rescheduling opening times to better meet customer needs and subsequent reduction in front of house posts

o rescheduling of opening times to better meet customer demands and

o shared resource staffing across Library and Museum services

o consolidation of Archivist posts to provide a borough-wide Archivist

o Relocating and joining up the Central Library‟s Local Studies department and the reading room at the Archives site in Balby into the Doncaster Museum site on Chequer Road, ensuring all these services which focus on Doncaster‟s history and heritage work from one location, meaning only one journey for the customer to make use of resources from all 3 services.

  Implementing a new libraries service delivery model which will achieve savings of £0.6m. The proposed service delivery model will consist of:

o a Central Library facility in the town centre

o a further core 4 Council-run libraries based around service hubs in local communities

o all remaining libraries community-run where there is the community capacity and appetite to do so

o This will mean a further possible 8 community managed libraries in addition to the 12 already in place across the borough. There is the potential for community managed libraries in these locations: Askern, Armthorpe, Bentley, Cantley, Conisbrough, Hatfield, Tickhill and Woodlands.

 The Council remains committed to ensuring that there is still well stocked and well-resourced provision in these locations, a book reservation service, free computer and internet access, information services, and children‟s library stock and services. In the event of no community group coming forward to run the facilities, alternatives will be sought to ensure a continued provision in these areas, including the potential for using other venues, reduced opening hours, outreach and other creative provision.

 The council will continue to explore options to be more efficient in our use of buildings, for example by looking at all buildings available in the community, looking to share buildings with other Council or partner organisations, by moving libraries into other buildings or bringing new partners in. This has already taken place in a number of locations where a library has worked in a successful partnership with a school (e.g. Wheatley Community Library) or St Leger Homes of Doncaster (e.g. Mexborough Library). This will include buildings being used more efficiently through a merger of the Cantley and Bessacarr sites using an existing community centre venue and reviewing options with schools.

 Proposals to cease the mobile libraries delivering an additional £130k saving in 2014/15. The current service which costs £130k to run, reaching 630 repeat customers, is not delivering value for money and there are other methods to reach customers. The Home Library Service is also expensive to run, and greater use of volunteers to support this service will be explored in future. A future library strategy for 2015 onwards will look to increase innovative ways of bringing books and reading to the public in Doncaster, including investigating direct delivery to residents‟ homes on request – a click and deliver service, options for tablets and e-readers, library access points at new and different locations and integrating the Home Library Service for housebound readers with priorities from the adult social care agenda.

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Here we are again?

Well, here at SDL Towers we did not think we would be posting here again.  The Council won the appeal and there seemed no more to be done.  Indeed there may not be.  However it seems the Council have not finished with the already decimated service.

Having a look around the council website as SDL member Lynne has been asked to go on Radio Sheffield tomorrow morning to speak about our experiences. A few questions arose which we are hoping some good souls may answer.

1. Barnby Dun – Lynne thought this whole building had been closed and the schools service, such as is left, had been moved to Central/North Bridge, but the council website says it is open and the schools library items are still there. Is this true? [Update - SLS *is* still at Barnby Dun, this is a relief]

2. Can any users of the community libraries make comment on the difference in service they receive compared to previously? Positive and Negative please, this should be balanced and not all volunteers or community libraries will be negative. However a cursory glance at just opening hours shows a vast difference between those properly staffed and those reliant on the goodwill of volunteers.

3. Can anyone add weight or put to bed any rumours (full anonymity provided) regarding any further cuts or moving to community management of the 11 libraries (excluding central) remaining under council staff control?  For example we have heard Conisbrough Library is being considered for being a community (a.k.a. volunteer) run facility.

4. We can find no consultation or plans on the council website and know from bitter experience it is likely to be buried, or provided only to those who live in the affected areas, not those who work in or education in, those areas as the 1964 Act requires. There was also no clear guidance regarding provision in alternate formats. Is there some anywhere for this current round?  If indeed the rumours become more solid.

5. The last 4 Cabinet (Mayor Ros Jones and her Cabinet) Committee meetings show no explicit mention of libraries but, in the medium term financial planning document of 6th November they make positive mention of the community libraries providing savings and say further savings in community and leisure services could be proposed “The Council could encourage community management of libraries in more areas, further modernise the service and bring together the management.” Is anyone else worried by this? Full document is available here Medium Term Financial Plan.
There are no Library related, or finance related, agenda items for future Cabinet meetings.

6. There are no mentions of libraries in the current Forward Plan of the council. Current Forward Plan.

Any information that anyone could provide to us will be gratefully received, thank you.

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Reason to stay cheerful… Appeal Granted!!!

The temptation to jump around with giddy excitement here at Save Doncaster Libraries is being tempered with the reality that this is a battle won…

Below is the Press Release from our Lawyers, Public Interest Lawyers, released yesterday.  This details the fantastic news that our determined campaigner, Carol Buck, has continued in her fight for justice (Did we say 2-Tier…), and has been granted leave to appeal the travesty that saw the campaign lose the initial Judicial Review into the decimation of Doncaster’s Public Library Service.

Legal Challenge to Doncaster Mayor’s Decision to Reduce Library Funding wins Permission to Appeal

In a hearing in London today, the Court of Appeal granted Doncaster resident Carol Buck the right to appeal a High Court judgment of August 2012 in a case seeking to prevent the Mayor of Doncaster from going ahead with swingeing cuts to library services in the area. The decision means that a full appeal hearing will now take place in the Court of Appeal before June this year.

The Claimant will be asking for this hearing to take place as soon as possible, so that the important question of the balance of power between the Mayor and the elected Council in vital areas such as cuts to local libraries can be clarified.

At the hearing, the Court of Appeal agreed that all of the appeal points raised by the Claimant should be considered at a full hearing before a three judge Court of Appeal, including:

- The powers of a democratically elected Council to propose reasonable binding amendments to the Council’s annual financial strategy;
– Whether the budget constitutes a Council ‘strategy’ which the Mayor is required to follow.

If the Claimant is successful in her appeal, the Court of Appeal will have the power to quash the Mayor’s decision thus restoring the previous council-funded library services while the Council and Mayor reconsiders the financial strategy.

The Court of Appeal’s decision today comes amid growing uncertainty over the future of publicly funded services in Doncaster and across the UK as a whole. Where local services are being lost, it is vital that voters know the extent of the powers of their elected representatives so that those same representatives can be held accountable for their decisions.

Speaking today, Carol Buck, said as follows:

“I am very pleased that we have been given permission to appeal by the Court of Appeal. I am only sad that the Mayor has ignored local protests and failed to resource the libraries in the way the Council intended.”

Daniel Carey of Public Interest Lawyers said as follows:

“I am pleased that the Court of Appeal has recognised the importance of the issues in this case and the validity of our legal arguments. The democratic mandate of the Mayor does not extend to trampling the democratic mandate of the full Council when it has specifically provided for the funding of highly valued services such as Doncaster’s libraries.”

For further information, contact: Public Interest Lawyers

Have the closures/move into the voluntary sector libraries affected you?  This blogger has personally been unable to visit a library ever since, due to the few opening hours of her now seldom open and in a hut local branch, and all others being a car drive away and unable to be accessed within non-working hours.  If you have been affected we would LOVE to hear from you.

Media articles:-

Hope in Library Closure Battle *edit* the closed libraries are Carcroft and Denaby, NOT Skellow as stated in the article.  Identical article under Doncaster Free Press banner and on The Epworth Belles website.

Court of Appeal agrees to hear Doncaster Libraries Case.

Glimmer of hope for Denaby’s old library.

Legal Challenge to Doncaster Mayor’s Decision to Reduce Funding wins Permission to Appeal.

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Did we say 2-tier? We meant 3-tier… Judicial Review Lost.

Campaigners met last night to try and understand the Judgement of Sir Gary Hickinbottom, the Judge residing over the Judicial Review heard at Leeds Combined Court 24th July with the decision given yesterday at approximately 4pm.  As many Press have stated, we were unsuccessful.

Campaigners Lose Judicial Review into Libraries.

Doncaster Library legal battle lost by Carol Buck.

Carol Buck expresses her disappointment over the closure of some libraries in Doncaster.

The Mayor has gone on record within print and broadcast media stating

“I am of course pleased with the outcome. This was never a decision that was taken lightly but it was necessary in order to make the required savings. Over 300 volunteers have signed up and pledged their time to volunteer in our libraries for free and keep them open for the communities. I am delighted with the success they have become.

“This case should never have been taken to court and I am furious that this has now cost the taxpayers of Doncaster over £30,000. At a time of cutbacks, this is money that could have helped to save jobs.”

and has also stated (BBC Radio Sheffield Drivetime show of 1st August 2012) that he believes the entire case to have been at the behest of the Labour Group within Doncaster Council and that Carol has been used.

Well.  Let us make this ABSOLUTELY CLEAR.  Save Doncaster Libraries is a non-partisan group made up of support from people of all political viewpoints, and those for whom this is the only issue on which they have any strong opinion.  Carol Buck is a very strong, independently-minded woman who also felt strongly and was prepared to put herself on the line to represent the group within Court, to the benefit of thousands of Doncaster Residents.  Carol Buck is no pawn and is NOT being used for political gain by any party.

We also agree that this should not have gone to Court.  As campaigner John  Sheppard said “wouldn’t have gone to Court if he’d abided by the Democratic process”!

Naturally we are very disappointed in the outcome of the Judicial Review.  We have met to discuss in brief what we can do from here.  We are now awaiting the written judgement to ensure we fully understand what has been decided, none of us are legal experts.  In summary the moves that are made from now are dependent upon the advice of our Legal team from Public Interest Lawyers, the decision of Carol (which we will respect whatsoever she decides, she has already gone far and beyond what many people are willing to do) and the feel of popular support within Doncaster.

It seems to us that the Judge was making distinctions between strategic and operational decisions, and between this and plans.  Although the details we do not understand.  In short, the Judge said the Council did not have the right to overturn the Executive decision (although of the amendment in question 2 other elements the Mayor did pass therefore it seems he can pick and choose from budget amendments out forward), if this is the case, WHY do we have the option for the full council to put forward amendments?

What exactly is the Democratic process in Doncaster now?  The Mayor believes this has been a waste of taxpayers money that could have saved jobs.  So why (as we are led to believe)  has he kept the £328,000 that Full Council wanted to put back into the libraries in reserve and, indeed, has used some to place paid staff into Moorends on Fridays, a library for which there are NO volunteers?  It is clear that the 300 volunteers of which the Mayor proudly boasts are not evenly spread, as our recent report (2-tier service, with no winners) shows.  It is clear that the Council has no idea how to manage the library service and is, it seems, running it down.  Book Stock has been slashed, staffing reduced to the few running the many, hours of libraries cut even in libraries still properly staffed, even the Foyer on the Ground floor has been moved upstairs, so there is no welcome or staffing as one enters any more.

A campaign member visited the Library recently and, in the lift, spotted a small notice advertising a Friends of Doncaster Libraries meeting, tonight (5:30pm, 2nd August) in the meeting room of Central Library.  As well advertised and promoted as usual by the Council.  We look forward to hearing reports of this meeting as we are pretty sure we would not be welcome.

So we are left not with a 2-tier, but a 3-tier library service.  There are the properly run, council-staffed libraries, then the few volunteer-run entities with many volunteers, and finally the many with few or no volunteers whatsoever.  The equitable access to reading and information materials is gone.  Doncaster now has a postcode lottery of access and provision.  This is not a legacy of which Doncaster should be proud.

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Judicial Review – Judgement reserved.

BBC News OnlineBBC Look North, BBC Radio Sheffield Bigger at Breakfast, Yorkshire Post and many more media outlets have covered the Judicial Review that took place at Leeds Combined Court yesterday, 24th July 2012. Campaign members were present to support Carol and the Public Interest Lawyers in this legal argument.  The Judgement has been reserved until Tuesday or Wednesday of next week.  We can only hope Justice prevails.

Media have been contacting us asking about the realities of the Volunteer libraries.  The public face of these is one of success, although our post detailing the change of hours reveals a worrying trend towards a 2-tier service with no winners.  We cannot answer these questions as the public face of the service is one of positive spin; however at least 4 of the community libraries (including those deemed the most successful) have privately spoken to us with concerns such as those regarding Volunteer committment, training inadequacies, legal ramifications for which no advice is forthcoming despite requests (ditto financial, management and similar).  If there are any volunteers willing to come forward with details, you can be anonymous, please contact Save Doncaster Libraries using the options listed on this page.

We still need to fundraise to support our legal fight – significant amounts or pocket change are welcomed, so please support us in this.  Donations are welcomed in different ways, you could simply pass cash to a member of the campaign who will ensure it gets to our Treasurer John Sheppard. You could log in to your own paypal account and send funds directly to our campaign using the email address johnshep50@talktalk.net or you could contact John directly to request an address to where you could send a cheque (payable to ‘Save Our Libraries’), either by email or telephone on 07951382703.

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