Library Review ‘called in’ to Overview & Scrutiny

The review of the library service has been called in to Overview and Scrutiny, which has the function of holding the Cabinet to account for its decisions, and contributing to evidence-based policy making in the council.

A meeting of Overview and Scrutiny is to be held on Friday 18th February. The documents relating to the meeting are available here. There are many reasons that councillors have called the proposals in to O&S, the major ones being:

  • The decision was made without sufficient regard to measures of deprivation, community capacity, and there are concerns over the consultation process;
  • The policy framework has not been followed;
  • There has been no comprehensive assessment of community capacity to run library services on a voluntary basis has taken place;
  • Seriously flawed public consultation process;
  • Lack of public support, indeed significant level of opposition;
  • Failure to carry out a proper needs analysis, which will lead to sections of the community being disenfranchised;
  • Failure to comply with Public Sector Equality Duty, which could give rise to a judicial review;
  • Failure to comply with Section 188 of the Trade Unions Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act, which could give rise to protective awards claims;
  • Significant risk to children’s literacy standards, particularly in areas of social and economic deprivation;
  • Unrealistic expectations regarding alternative governance, which is solely predicated on a volunteer-run service;
  • Failure to consider the full cost of closing 14 libraries, which means the projected savings are over-stated;
  • Disproportionate impact on the Libraries service within the context of the overall budget cuts across all areas of the Council;
  • The legacy of these proposals would be a wholly inadequate service, which would arguably not constitute a “comprehensive and efficient library service” as required by the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964.

Potential outcomes

The Overview and Scrutiny Procedure Rule 9 k) sets out four specific courses of action, which OSMC may take when considering a called-in decision.  The Committee may: –

(i)         Refer the decision back to the Executive for reconsideration in the light of the recommendations from the Committee.

This would require identifying any areas within the process or in respect of the decision, which could be improved, or submitting recommendations for alternative courses of action.

(ii)        Request that the decision(s) be deferred until Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee or Panels have considered relevant issues and made recommendations to the Executive.

OSMC may consider that the decision could be improved by further investigation of relevant issues to be conducted by the Committee or by the appropriate Overview and Scrutiny Panel.  The Committee may wish to take account of any timescales that are crucial to the decision.

(iii)       Take no action in relation to the called-in decision(s) but consider whether issues arising from the call-in need to be added to the work programme of an existing or new Overview and Scrutiny Sub-Committee.

OSMC may consider that the call-in of this decision has identified issues which should be considered as part of its or one of the Overview and Scrutiny Panels’ Work Plans.  Consideration will need to be given to the potential impact this may have on OSMC or the relevant Panel in terms of delivering its agreed work plan.  This may require a reprioritisation of issues in order to achieve this.

(iv)       If, but only if (having taken the advice of the Monitoring Officer and/or the Chief Finance Officer), the Committee determine that the decision is wholly or partly outside the Budget and Policy Framework refer the matter, with any recommendations, to the Council after following the procedure in Rule 8 of the Budget and Policy Framework Procedure Rules.  Only in this case is there a continuing bar on implementing the decision.

Edit: Read SDL’s notes from the meeting here.

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