Campaigners met last night to try and understand the Judgement of Sir Gary Hickinbottom, the Judge residing over the Judicial Review heard at Leeds Combined Court 24th July with the decision given yesterday at approximately 4pm. As many Press have stated, we were unsuccessful.
The Mayor has gone on record within print and broadcast media stating
“I am of course pleased with the outcome. This was never a decision that was taken lightly but it was necessary in order to make the required savings. Over 300 volunteers have signed up and pledged their time to volunteer in our libraries for free and keep them open for the communities. I am delighted with the success they have become.
“This case should never have been taken to court and I am furious that this has now cost the taxpayers of Doncaster over £30,000. At a time of cutbacks, this is money that could have helped to save jobs.”
and has also stated (BBC Radio Sheffield Drivetime show of 1st August 2012) that he believes the entire case to have been at the behest of the Labour Group within Doncaster Council and that Carol has been used.
Well. Let us make this ABSOLUTELY CLEAR. Save Doncaster Libraries is a non-partisan group made up of support from people of all political viewpoints, and those for whom this is the only issue on which they have any strong opinion. Carol Buck is a very strong, independently-minded woman who also felt strongly and was prepared to put herself on the line to represent the group within Court, to the benefit of thousands of Doncaster Residents. Carol Buck is no pawn and is NOT being used for political gain by any party.
We also agree that this should not have gone to Court. As campaigner John Sheppard said “wouldn’t have gone to Court if he’d abided by the Democratic process”!
Naturally we are very disappointed in the outcome of the Judicial Review. We have met to discuss in brief what we can do from here. We are now awaiting the written judgement to ensure we fully understand what has been decided, none of us are legal experts. In summary the moves that are made from now are dependent upon the advice of our Legal team from Public Interest Lawyers, the decision of Carol (which we will respect whatsoever she decides, she has already gone far and beyond what many people are willing to do) and the feel of popular support within Doncaster.
It seems to us that the Judge was making distinctions between strategic and operational decisions, and between this and plans. Although the details we do not understand. In short, the Judge said the Council did not have the right to overturn the Executive decision (although of the amendment in question 2 other elements the Mayor did pass therefore it seems he can pick and choose from budget amendments out forward), if this is the case, WHY do we have the option for the full council to put forward amendments?
What exactly is the Democratic process in Doncaster now? The Mayor believes this has been a waste of taxpayers money that could have saved jobs. So why (as we are led to believe) has he kept the £328,000 that Full Council wanted to put back into the libraries in reserve and, indeed, has used some to place paid staff into Moorends on Fridays, a library for which there are NO volunteers? It is clear that the 300 volunteers of which the Mayor proudly boasts are not evenly spread, as our recent report (2-tier service, with no winners) shows. It is clear that the Council has no idea how to manage the library service and is, it seems, running it down. Book Stock has been slashed, staffing reduced to the few running the many, hours of libraries cut even in libraries still properly staffed, even the Foyer on the Ground floor has been moved upstairs, so there is no welcome or staffing as one enters any more.
A campaign member visited the Library recently and, in the lift, spotted a small notice advertising a Friends of Doncaster Libraries meeting, tonight (5:30pm, 2nd August) in the meeting room of Central Library. As well advertised and promoted as usual by the Council. We look forward to hearing reports of this meeting as we are pretty sure we would not be welcome.
So we are left not with a 2-tier, but a 3-tier library service. There are the properly run, council-staffed libraries, then the few volunteer-run entities with many volunteers, and finally the many with few or no volunteers whatsoever. The equitable access to reading and information materials is gone. Doncaster now has a postcode lottery of access and provision. This is not a legacy of which Doncaster should be proud.