Doncaster Council’s next round of public consultation is due to begin next week. No consultation schedule has been published and there are no clues as to the methods or timescales for this project. It is apparent, though, that the same libraries are earmarked for closure, the same cuts are to be made to staff and resource budgets, and the council will be consulting the public about decisions already made. Asking the public and local charities “who can run the libraries instead please?” does not a consultation make, especially as an equalities impact assessment has still not been conducted.
This seems entirely tokenistic to us, and doesn’t fill us with hope that the new consultation will be any more legally compliant than the last shambolic half-effort. Given that Gloucestershire County Council are a few steps ahead with their library cuts and are facing a judicial review at the High Court, it would be wise for Doncaster Council to stop following in GCC’s footsteps. Perhaps they could take a leaf out of North Yorkshire County Council’s book and reconsider their decision to hand libraries over to volunteers (and close them when they find out what we already know – our communities simply cannot do it). There’s still time to avoid a costly legal challenge.
For more information about libraries and the law, see the Voices for the Library section on the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 and Public Libraries News for legal arguments and news about legal challenges around the country including Gloucestershire, Somerset, the Isle of Wight and Brent.