Scores on the Doors

We wrote some time ago about the infamous libraries score-sheet that the officer responsible for libraries used to choose which libraries to close. It was massively flawed, which was brought up by members of the public in meetings with the Mayor, Cllr Ransome (portfolio holder for libraries) and Neighbourhoods and Communities officer Julie Grant. Indeed, the Mayor even admitted that the spreadsheet was totally arbitrary in the Bawtry meeting in February. He also claimed several times that new versions of the score-sheet were developed to reflect a “fairer” hit list. So we asked for it through the Freedom of Information process. The council failed to provide it, saying:

“The outcome of this further consultation with cabinet and elected members was that no- one was happy with the criteria or scores unless a Council-run library was to remain in an
area. Therefore it was decided that due to the spread of the borough and the current
locations, the geographic location had to be the primary consideration although the usage,
condition of building and community need still needed to underpin the outcome. “

We weren’t satisfied. The Mayor had said this new score-sheet existed. The Mayor is a man of his word! So we asked for an internal review. The council’s response was as follows:

“After reviewing the request, I can confirm that your appeal is partly upheld as follows:

1.  The  response  to  your  original  Freedom  of  Information  request  was  sent  to  you  on 17th  February  2011.    It  includes  useful  background  information  regarding  the process by which a decision was made on the way forward for further consultation on the proposed library closures.  However it does not make clear that cabinet also took the decision not to produce a revised score sheet at this time.

2.  This means that Doncaster Council is unable to comply with your original request for
information because the information is not available.

3.  However this fact should have been communicated to you in the original response
and I apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused.”

Whoops! So the Mayor may have been talking about a fictitious revised score-sheet and actually the council had decided to change the system of measurement – yet miraculously, 12 of the 14 libraries originally under threat were still on the hit list, and then the Mayor picked another two for good measure. This doesn’t seem like a particularly robust or justifiable method for selecting libraries for closure, but this is the basis for any consultation ‘going forward’. The council are only consulting in the 14 areas on the hit list, and they’re only looking at community-run solutions. There is no talk of identifying potential partners, for example. It all leads us to the conclusion that nothing has changed, and the council still lack the ability to conduct an evidence-based review.

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