DMBC sent out this press release yesterday:
“Doncaster Council is inviting residents to consult on the future of 14 libraries across the borough. This follows a Cabinet decision on 23 March to retain and invest in 12 libraries while looking at alternative ways to provide the library service in 14 other areas, if those communities say they wish to retain a service.
All residents who live in one of the 14 areas will be sent a questionnaire where they can have their say on the future of their library and of any impact the changes may have upon them. There will also be meetings within the communities to ensure everyone is reached.
Mayor of Doncaster, Peter Davies, said: “It has never been my wish to close libraries in Doncaster but we are in a very difficult position due to the savings the council has to make. We need residents to tell us what alternatives would suit them and if they wish to be involved in the future solution.”
Residents have until 8 July to complete their questionnaire and send it back to the council. Anyone who expresses an interest in being involved will then be contacted. The outcome of the consultation will be made public in libraries and then an agreement on the future of the libraries will be reached and put in place.”
Even though the council has admitted that their choice of 14 libraries to remove funding from was massively flawed, they are still driving forward with their plans to deprive some of the most excluded communities of a statutory library service. This is completely unacceptable and demonstrates that the Mayor and his Cabinet are unable and unwilling to provide council services to which the Doncaster public require and have a legal right.
The council claims that the consultation is intended to be “far-reaching and comprehensive” – yet only residents of the 14 villages are allowed to take part in the consultation. Not even those who work in the area and therefore use the library nearest to their workplace for the sake of convenience are allowed to make their voices heard. The council claim that people who work in the areas do not count as part of the community. We can only assume that those who attend school in those areas but do not live there are not allowed to participate either; this is in direct opposition to the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 which states that the council has a duty to provide a library service to “those whose residence or place of work is within the library area of the authority or who are undergoing full-time education within that area.” It is therefore vital that the needs of not only residents, but also people working and undergoing education in the affected areas are consulted too.
This is local democracy at its worst – a total failure to assess the needs of local communities, a completely flawed and tokenistic consultation process, and an unreasonable demand for local communities to run statutory public services with minimal support from the council, otherwise this vital service will be removed.
The introduction to the questionnaire also states that “Where a need is not identified or an alternative provision, the library will be closed.” Not only is this threat entirely unfair to the communities who have been put in this situation totally unnecessarily, this comment goes to show just how much Doncaster council continue to miss the point about their library service – there is a need in all these areas for a high quality, professionally-staffed library in a fit for purpose environment. The council has done no work to assess the strength of communities and work out if it would be at all reasonable to ask communities to run the libraries. Save Doncaster Libraries have spoken to a number of affected communities, all of whom say the same thing – there is no way that they have the skills or time to support their library service, but they and their friends and families will be badly affected by the loss of the library.