Our Communities Need Answers

This morning we sent the letter below to Doncaster Council, asking key questions that have not yet been addressed. These are issues that communities have a right to be fully informed about, particularly given the amount of pressure they are under to come up with solutions for the library service when the council has failed to do so. We look forward to the council’s detailed and transparent response.

Dear Ms. Grant,

I write as representative of the Save Doncaster Libraries group with some queries that have arisen as a result of the recently commenced “Your Library Service… Get Involved: Consultation on the Future Delivery of Library and Information Services in Doncaster”.

1. Why are the same 14 libraries under threat of closure when the Mayor admitted in both the Bawtry public meeting and Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee that the selection process was severely flawed and resulted in the selection of 14 arbitrary branches?

2. Why are only communities within the vicinity of the 14 threatened libraries being consulted when any reductions of provision will inevitably have an impact on the whole Doncaster population? We understand that it is particularly important to assess the needs of the directly affected areas, but it is vital to gain a wider understanding of the impact of library cuts across the borough.

3. Why are people who work within these threatened areas not being consulted when the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 states clearly 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”? There are a number of people who work in the affected areas who live outside of the borough. It is therefore impossible for Doncaster Council to control the opening hours of these individuals’ local libraries, yet Doncaster Council has a legal duty to make library provision available to these individuals.

4. Why are local school pupils and staff, businesses and community groups not being directly consulted, when they make use of these facilities?

5. a) Why have library support groups, who have asked for full and frank accounting details and anticipated costs not been provided with these? Information of this nature is fundamental to their ability to make informed decisions about their capacity to run the library in their area.

b) Please provide the following figures:

  • Lease costs
  • Ongoing building and maintenance costs
  • Insurance and public liability costs
  • Training costs
  • Council support
  • ICT costs
  • Stock provision

6. Why is the questionnaire not being made available in formats other than posted to households, and in inclusive formats such as Braille, languages other than English or with clearly provided support for those with learning disabilities?

7. Why does the covering letter from Mayor Davies imply that any non-return of the questionnaire will skew the results such that they will be assumed to mean people do not need/want a library service? “If we do not hear from you, we will take the view that you do not require access to a library service in your community” – last line of the covering letter.

8. Why has an Equalities Impact Assessment still not been conducted, this is a legal requirement?

9. Why have deprivation indices of all areas within Doncaster not been considered when deciding on which communities should bear the brunt of the cuts?

10. What security measures will be in place to safeguard the personal information of library members when the library management system would be accessible by myriad people not employed by the Council?

11. How will stock selection within the proposed library service, and consequently stock circulation, be managed?

12. What decision making process was undertaken that has resulted in this current consultation being funded by the current Library Service?

13. The Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee key recommendations require:

“That an inclusive, rigorous and robust consultation exercise is undertaken in the localities affected;

• An overall review of the pattern of provisions in the borough is undertaken at the same time as the locality based reviews;

• A review of the Council’s consultation process and protocol be undertaken.”

In the light of these recommendations, what is the Council’s consultation plan? We request to see any documents relating to the plans for the library consultation including timescales, responsibilities and accountable owners, details of data collection and analysis methods.

I anticipate your response to these questions within 14 days from the date of this letter.

Yours sincerely,

Ms Lynne Coppendale.

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