We received an email today in response to the questions posed to the council on 1st November. We asked:
- What changes are being made to the management system and staff structure of Doncaster Library and Information Services?
- What opportunity the public and the Save Doncaster Libraries Campaign will have to comment on the strategic review?
- What examples of national best practice are informing the way forward?
We also requested “a detailed breakdown of the consultation plan and process, and information about which groups of stakeholders are involved in consultation, including timescales”.
Below is the response:
Dear Ms Smith,
Please find below a response to the questions you have raised.
1) The changes to the management system and staff structure of Doncaster Library & Information Services are still being formed and will not be known until January 2011 when the Cabinet considers the future shape of the service and it’s strategy moving forward.
2) The public including those involved in the Save Doncaster Libraries Campaign have had their opportunity to feed into the review during the recent public consultation exercise which was explained thoroughly to you in our last correspondence.
3) Examples of national best practice were used in the libraries review report previously supplied to you under the Freedom of Information Act. The MLA are also assisting us in the development of our Libraries Strategic Plan and are obviously using alll the national information they have access to. We are also in regular contact with CILIP who will also see and comment upon the plan moving forward.
4) The consultation with all stakeholders was very comprehensive with almost 3,000 responses from a good representation of Doncaster’s residents at many different locations as well as the involvement of MPs, elected members, Parish Councils, community groups, trade unions and staff. The questionnaire was on the website and there was a wide distribution coordinated in each neighbourhood and across all reception points including libraries as well as press releases over a period of about 6 weeks. Every attempt was made to make everyone aware of the process.
5) The meeting that took place on 20th October was one of many briefings which all staff in Neighbourhoods & Communities were invited to including library staff and many attended them. Further briefings were also set up upon request from staff so they could attend. Alternative cover was provided/offered so all staff could attend one of the sessions, it was never intended that the libraries would close.
Director Neighbourhoods and Communities
Tel. 01302 737526
Although it is reassuring to hear of the involvement of the MLA and CILIP, we are concerned that little attention will be paid to the expertise of these organisations, particularly as the MLA is to be abolished under the current government. We are also concerned that stakeholders have not “had their opportunity” to feed into the review and that the consultation exercise was tokenistic and did not seek to discover the public’s views about library services. We have been provided with very little information about what the consultation exercise consisted of, despite two requests. We have therefore made a Freedom of Information Request, asking for details of the consultation process, with which the council have refused to provide us.
Furthermore, 3000 responses does not constitue a “very comprehensive” consultation and is not an adequate proportion of the population of Doncaster to provide a “good representation”. The estimated population of Doncaster according to the 2001 census, is 286,866. This means that only approximately 1% of Doncaster residents have had their say about the council’s library services. The consultation was ineffective, unrepresentative and inadequate.