Once again, Mayor Davies is either spreading misinformation or has no idea what his own reports have stated. He has criticised Ed Miliband for supporting Doncaster libraries and those campaigning against the Mayor’s unjustifiable decision to close 14 out of 26 branches. The Star reports that Mayor Davies said:
“The decision has been made that 12 libraries will stay open and be improved to make them more attractive to get more people in them. Central Library, for instance, has been neglected over the years.
“We will keep as many open as possible, working with the community. But we already have too many libraries in the borough. There are certainly some libraries where no-one has come forward as a community saying they are interested in keeping them open.”
There were hopes that a new Central Library would be built as part of the Renaissance Masterplan, because the current building is unfit for purpose (the consultancy report states that the Central Library “was built as a carpet factory, is poorly located and has not benefited from any significant modernisation”). While it is very true that Central Library has indeed been neglected over the years, Mayor Davies has shown no signs that he intends to follow the recommendations of the consultancy report which states:
“This opportunity for a new Central Library needs to be developed with the greatest care and planning for the best contribution to the regeneration and renewal of the centre of the Borough.”
As yet, there has been no planning and exceedingly little care put into the development of a new central library, which in order to be part of a sustainable network of libraries absolutely must be included as part of the whole library strategy yet is entirely absent.
“And yet to every bad there is a worse”, as Mayor Davies’ favourite author once said. A Fresh Start for Doncaster Libraries: Doncaster Libraries and Information Strategy 2011 – 2015, clearly states:
“There have been draft proposals for a replacement Central Library as part of a future phase of the new Civic and Cultural Quarter. However given the current financial climate this is now unlikely to be realised as part of the development.“
Mayor Davies is therefore making false promises about the development of the Central Library and he is misinforming the media and the public about his plans. It could also be considered misconduct under Doncaster Council’s Code of Conduct:
5. You must not conduct yourself in a manner which could reasonably be regarded as bringing your office or authority into disrepute.
It is clear that the Mayor is totally out of touch with the residents of Doncaster. An inability to come forward to volunteer to run the library service for him is not a sign of a lack of interest in or need for a library – it is a sign that communities do not have the strength, level of education, experience, time and power to do so. Doncaster is a struggling town with many areas of deprivation, high levels of unemployment and low levels of educational attainment. This is a sign that the town needs exactly as many libraries as it has, and of a better standard, not fewer. It is incredibly irresponsible of the council to shirk their responsibilities in such a manner. There has been no clear guidance from the council about how they might support communities; indeed, it is very unclear as to what role the council might play if communities did manage to come up with a solution for them. Even in Bawtry, where the community is desperate to keep its library and has managed to scrape together a few people who might just be able to come up with a plan, they are facing major logistical issues. They have made it clear that taking over the library would only ever be a Plan B; what they really want is for the council to take responsibility for the library service in the way that it should and not place this unfair responsibility on the community who are unlikely to be able to sustain it.
We are unsure how to make the message any louder or more clear to Mayor Davies. Over 26,000 people so far have signed our petition against his plans and hundreds have attended Read-Ins demonstrating fierce opposition to library cuts and closures across the borough. Very few people have stepped forward to take responsibility for the library service because people are not in a position to do so. The council has a legal responsibility to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service. Mayor Davies, your plan is sheer folly. Cutting £1,294,490 from the libraries budget is disproportionate and makes it impossible for the library service to be legally compliant and provide a good quality service for residents. SDL urges you once again to cease your mindless destruction of such a valuable source of education, culture and civic pride.