Next Time Vote Libraries

An article from The Star reports that the three Conservative councillors who voted for library closures and cuts despite being ordered not to by their party whip, have not been disciplined.

THREE Doncaster Tories have escaped punishment after they went against party orders over library closures.

Deputy mayor Patricia Schofield, and her fellow cabinet members Coun Jonathan Wood and Coun Cynthia Ransome, faced a party disciplinary meeting after they backed Mayor Peter Davies to support a review of libraries which would see 14 branch libraries closed.

They included branches in the Conservative heartlands of Bawtry and Sprotbrough.

The councillors had earlier been given orders from the Conservative group on Doncaster Council to oppose the review, and to instead move for a 12 month deferral over the closures.

Mayor Peter Davies later announced cash would be made available to keep libraries open for up to 12 months, shortly before the matter was due to go before the full council.

Coun Mick Jameson, chairman of the majority Labour group, said the compromise was made after his party insisted on it as a condition of its support for the mayor’s budget.

But Tory group leader Coun Allan Jones has now confirmed there will be no disciplinary action.

A party statement said: “We, the Conservative Group, have resolved the libraries issue within the council’s budget process.

“While this has been a difficult but important issue for the Conservatives, there has been no disagreement on the way forward, and approval for an extension on the issue of library closures has been given.

“The Conservative Group are working hard with our communities, to keep libraries open for the longer term.”

Meanwhile, details of the messages which were sent to the Couns Schofield, Wood and Ransome have emerged. They describe the issue which the party wanted the councillors to vote against as a three-line whip – the strongest political order a party can make. It also reveals the library which sparked the row was Sprotbrough library.

This is a demonstration of the mess that Doncaster’s local democracy is in. The decision to disproportionately cut library services has been opposed by over 15,000 residents, the Labour councillors who called the decision in to Overview and Scrutiny, unions, local and national library campaigns and even the local Conservative whip. Yet still, the Mayor’s decisions are being driven forward under the guise of a “12 month reprieve”. and the councillors responsible for allowing this to happen have escaped without reprimand. We know that communities are unable to take over their libraries, and nor should they be expected to. The Cabinet is fully aware of this, and has admitted it does not know what will be expected of communities. There is no sustainable plan and no sense of whether the library service that is left over will be legally compliant.

Councillor Ransome, the councillor responsible for the library service, who voted against her party and for the totally irresponsible and poorly-planned package of cuts, is up for re-election this year. Save Doncaster Libraries urge you to vote and vote wisely.

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