Time is running out to have your say in the library consultation…

A reminder that the library consultation closes on the 8th April at 17:00. Make sure you have your say. I strongly advise reading this article before you complete the survey if you haven’t already done so and are unsure what to put in your answers. You can find my responses below:

Having read Kent County Council’s mission for the future of its Libraries, Registration and Archives, which of the following statements best describes your thoughts?

Strongly Disagree

If there are any other services you would like to suggest or anything you would like to see Libraries, Registration and Archive deliver that it doesn’t at present please tell us here:

Supporting citizens in the use of government services more extensively, particularly through teaching citizens how to conduct freedom of information requests as well as how they can use the internet safely and securely. Better support of housebound users, particularly providing support in the access of ebooks and other online services.

Having read Kent County Council’s proposal to establish a charitable trust, which of the following statements best describes your thoughts?

Strongly Disagree

Please let us know the reasons for your choice in the box below:

A charitable trust will make the library service less accountable to the people who use the service (ie the people who “own” libraries through taxation) – such a move will have potential implications with respect to the Freedom of Information Act. It’s not financially sustainable as a model as has been demonstrated in Glasgow where a Trust has had difficulties paying the bills. Because of its limitations, it may result in poorly paid staff, resulting in demotivated and demoralised staff, as well as potential redundancies. A move to a trust model will likely lead to a serious weakening of employee terms and conditions, as UNISON have previously pointed out. Furthermore, such a move could result in the service costing more money as it may well lead to a loss in any economies of scale gained by being part of larger council.

Which of the following statements best describes the impact you feel the proposed charitable trust model will have on you/your organisation:

The proposed changes will have a significant impact on me/my organisation

If you feel that the proposed changes to the Library, Registration and Archive service will have some or a significant impact on you/ your organisation, whether positive or negative, or you have any other comments you wish to make, please provide details below:

It will result in a poorer service, affecting my children and the community due to the reasons given above. I want a service that I can hold to account. The proposals mean I cannot effectively hold the service to account and it will result in a more inefficient service for me, my family and the local community. 

If you have any alternative ideas of how we should deliver the Library, Registration and Archive service please tell us here:

It should be retained by the council to ensure the most efficient, cost-effective and transparent library service possible. Furthermore, cuts to library services will put greater pressure on other social services as a vital service to assist the most vulnerable is depleted. The council has a responsibility to ensure support for the most vulnerable and the best way of achieving this is partly through a publicly run library service.

We have completed an Equality Impact Assessment and we welcome your views on the assumptions we have made. To view the document, go to kent.gov.uk/lraconsultation. Please write your comments here:

A move to a Trust model, with the concerns highlighted above, will obviously hurt the most vulnerable which will therefore ensure the council does not meet its requirements under Equalities legislation.

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Hope for libraries in Kent

We’re sharing this message from the “Save our public libraries” campaign, Kent.

Until 8 April you can help HOPE for the future triumph austerity-excused cut & burn. There’s still time for you, family and friends to call for a publicly owned library to remain at the heart of each of the 99 proud communities across Kent which currently share our public “efficient & cost effective” library service!

If you haven’t yet:

1) Please read KCC’s consultation document: http://consultations.kent.gov.uk/consult.ti/lraconsultation/view?objectId=13951141#13951141

Decide whether it takes account of the extra costs of a Trust and the risks of an independent organisation outside democratic control (or its failure) then have your say: https://kentcc.firmstep.com/default.aspx/RenderForm/?F.Name=L3gz1GL5h8d&HideAll=1

2) Sign the ‘Save our public libraries’ PETITION  http://tinyurl.com/kentlibs

NB: To sign you have to register. You have to provide your address/postcode/email and then make up your own password (which must contain eight or more characters, including at least one digit and at least one upper case character). So something like Jsmith15 libraries. If you are ready for this it takes just a couple of minutes to register & sign.

3) LIKE  Love Kent Libraries on FACEBOOK facebook.com/LoveKentLibraries …

IF YOU HAVE DONE ALL THESE, THANK YOU. Now, please share the message of hope (for libraries) with your family, friends and contacts across Kent.

Best wishes

‘Save our public libraries’ campaign, Kent

Kent’s flawed library consultation

We are happy to share the following press release received this week in relation to the consultation currently being run by Kent County Council with respect to our public libraries.

Kent residents are being urged to dig deeply before responding to KCC’s proposal for the future of Kent’s library service; and all KCC councillors are being alerted that they are asking for the views of their constituents on the basis of a flawed consultation document.

Local library campaigners will gather outside The Beaney in Canterbury from 2pm on Thursday 12th March – and again outside Herne Bay Library from 10am on Saturday 14th March – to coincide with a Kent County Council’s ‘Library Consultation Roadshow’ being held at each of those venues. These are the latest in a series of roadshows being held across the county during February and March.

People attending the roadshows are being encouraged to ask seven penetrating questions (see below) about KCC’s consultation document ‘Shaping the future of library, registration and archive services in Kent’ so that they are better informed before deciding whether the proposal to transfer Kent’s 99 libraries to a Trust gets their support – which KCC is seeking.

Those attending as well as passers by will also be invited to sign the ‘Save our public libraries’  paper petition (which is being offered in several areas of the county) and, most importantly, online which is attracting signatures across Kent.
The petition highlights public concerns about the proposed transfer to a Trust and aims to ensure that there is a  full council debate before any decision is made on the plan for libraries, rather than it being nodded through on officer/Cabinet recommendation.

Whitstable resident, Jane Darling, who posted the petition on KCC’s website said:

It is vital that every KCC councillor takes responsibility for the future of Kent’s libraries and is involved in the debate. Any threat to this much-loved service affects every one of their constituents, all across the county and from early years to senior citizenship. What has become apparent, as people have had time to examine KCC’s proposal, is that the consultation document is seriously deficient in not setting out the risks to the service that an experimental and unaccountable trust would bring.   For example, there is no consideration of what would happen if the trust fails and/or can’t deliver on its contract. Kent’s residents are being asked to support a proposal without the full social and financial consequences being spelled out.”.

In addition to seeking to better inform those residents attending roadshows (or otherwise responding to the consultation document) an email is being sent to every KCC councillor alerting them to the deficiencies of the consultation document, and in some cases misrepresentation within it, to which their constituents are being asked to respond.

In particular, the consultation document:

  • fails to acknowledge the risks of closures of smaller libraries, the mobile and other specialist services, and over-dependence on volunteer staff that must come with control by an “independent” trust – both on evidence from trusts elsewhere (such as the Luton Trust which was one of KCC’s exemplar cases) and on the basis of Cllr Mike Hill’s comment on the launch of the consultation that “it will be a matter for the trust whether to maintain Kent’s 99 libraries”;
  • claims that ‘significant’ changes will have to be approved by KCC when such a tampering with the trust’s ‘independence’ would jeopardise it obtaining the charitable status it says the trust will have;
  • fails to spell out the considerable costs of establishing and running a trust – which would all come out of the libraries budget – including set up costs/marketing and branding/salaries of managerial, fund-raising and legal staff or consultants/loss of economies of scale and interdepartmental collaboration currently available to KCC/and the new cost of KCC retaining a team of administrators not to run libraries but to monitor targets set for the trust and ensure compliance to the contract;
  • misleads by claiming that a trust would give residents “more input and influence over future decisions” (how this would be delivered or guaranteed is unexplained) whilst totally disregarding that we would lose the meaningful democratic accountability of the library service that we currently have which includes the right to complain via an elected KCC representative in every community in Kent, consultations open to everyone such as the current library one and the budget consultation that preceded it; and
  • gives readers a false sense that this is a relatively minor organisational change – despite the statutory regulator saying that handing 99 libraries spread across 3,736 square KMs “would represent an innovative way of working” (ie untested, unprecedented) – when what is being put at risk is a free, integrated, universal and shared benefit which has been paid for by the residents of Kent over many generations and is (as the consultation document says) “low cost”, “efficient and cost effective” and a “richer and more varied service” than it has ever been.

All these points are being drawn to the attention of every KCC councillor by email.

Richard Stainton, also a Whitstable resident who has discussed the KCC proposal with a considerable number of Kent residents said:

“No KCC councillor can want constituents to be put in the position of supporting this momentous change to our library service when the risks associated with a trust are so incompletely explained in the consultation document. Any positive responses to the consultation will be far less reliable  because the document doesn’t give sufficient detail to the possible consequences. Surprisingly, perhaps, this threat to a highly-beneficial, county-wide service has not yet received the media scrutiny that would help residents have a fuller understanding of what  is at risk and what they are being asked to support. In my view, handing the libraries to a trust will be the thin end of the wedge. The costs of a trust will vastly outweigh any savings the document optimistically says it might benefit from – leading to far greater cuts and a worse service. Such a change would be irreversible and once a trust is in control we will have no representatives to complain to if we don’t like what it is doing”.

Richard Stainton & Jane Darling, Whitstable

On behalf of ‘Save our Public Libraries’ Campaign

Sign up to the Facebook Page here.

Seven questions to ask [243kb – pdf]

Kent councillors fail to back National Libraries Day

Tomorrow is National Libraries Day, a day of celebration of our public libraries and a reminder both of their importance and of the threats to their existence. With a public consultation on the cards, how many councillors in Kent will be going out in their community and demonstrating their support for public libraries? Well, not many.

We emailed all the councillors in Kent urging them to visit their local library for National Libraries Day. The response was less than impressive. Despite two separate emails, only four councillors confirmed that they would be visiting their local library:

Eric Hotson Conservative
HGR Birkby UKIP
Alan Terry UKIP
Trevor Shonk UKIP

Three UKIP councillors, one Conservative, not a single Labour councillor. That’s four councillors out of a total of a possible 84. A pretty poor turnout. So, does this reveal a certain ambivalence amongst councillors for their local library service? If so, it suggests that the battle to convince councillors that their intention to hand the libraries in Kent to a charitable trust is going to be exceptionally difficult. With a consultation currently taking place, which will undoubtedly endorse the council’s preferred option (regardless of the views expressed in the consultation), it’s disappointing to see so few of those in opposition prepared to make a stand and demonstrate their support.

You can find the contact details for your local councillor here.

If you are heading out for National Libraries Day, we’d love to hear from you! If you have any pictures or stories to share from the day itself, do drop us a line, we’d love to share them and help highlight the love communities feel for their public library service.

National Libraries Day in Kent – Will Our Councillors Support Libraries?

With National Libraries Day just around the corner, CLIK decided to send an email to all councillors in Kent requesting that they visit their local library to show their support for the library service in Kent. Our email stated the following:

Dear Councillor,

As you are no doubt aware, February 7th marks the date of the fifth National Libraries Day. The public library network in Kent is much valued and appreciated by people across the county, of all ages, incomes and backgrounds. It is a vital resource for many:

  • Supporting the development of literacy skills in our children.
  • Providing a place for those without an internet connection to get online.
  • For those unemployed and without an internet connection – a vital service that can help them get off benefits and into work.
  • Enables those without an internet connection to engage in council services and play a more active role in the democratic process, at all levels.
  • Provides a vital service for the housebound.
  • Ensures that thousands are not left behind as the government seeks to go “digital by default”.
  • Provides a neutral space to enable the freedom, prosperity and development of the individual.

We hope that you will help to highlight the importance of public libraries on this day by visiting your local branch and talking to both the people who work in our our libraries and the communities that use them. We hope that you will take this opportunity to highlight their importance via your local newspaper, demonstrating your support and belief in the county’s public libraries.

We would like you to make this commitment by putting your name to this document to say that you believe in the importance of our public library network and will be visiting your local library on the 7th February to demonstrate this commitment:

[doc URL]

You can find out more about National Libraries Day here:

http://www.nationallibrariesday.org.uk/

Many thanks for your commitment to libraries and to the freedom, prosperity and development that they offer the people of Kent.

Regards,

CLIK

We will post updates on signatures as they come in, but as yet we have not received a single email from a councillor pledging their support. (We’ve withheld the document URL as it is a publicly editable document and we do not wish to compromise its legitimacy by making it accessible to all.)

Why not drop your local councillor a line and ask them what they are doing for National Libraries Day? You can find your councillor’s contact details at this address:

https://democracy.kent.gov.uk/mgMemberIndex.aspx?bcr=1

Laughable “public consultation” to commence on Monday

After months of silence, it appears that a 12 week “public consultation” will be taking place starting next Monday (12th January). Of course, we fully expect this to be a fair consultation with absolutely no loaded questions and no attempt whatsoever to force people into accepting the council’s preferred option of charitable status. We have full confidence that the council will in no way suggest it is charitable status or closures or volunteers and expect that the council will also offer at the very least to maintain public libraries at their current level of funding. After all, as the report points out, Mike Hill has said that no firm decision has yet been taken.

Obviously, we must forget the fact that a job advert went up in June last year asking for candidates who can “ensure the implementation and delivery of a trust model for Kent Libraries, Registration and Archives” because, of course, that is simply a figment of our imaginations and will have no bearing whatsoever on the entirely fair process that Kent County Council is about to embark on.

We have full confidence that, unlike Lincolnshire County Council, the consultation will be entirely above board because, unlike Lincolnshire, Kent clearly haven’t already made their decision before launching the consultation. Apart from the fact an advert went out seeking to recruit someone to ensure a particular course of action. Apart from that, we see no reason to suggest that Kent have already made their decision with regards to libraries across the county or that this public consultation isn’t a complete sham. Absolutely not. Not a chance in hell.

Maybe.

Let’s see what the consultation document looks like next week. We won’t be holding our breaths.

Project Manager to ensure delivery of Trust model is appointed

From an FoI that was recently submitted regarding the recently advertised project manager post that was quickly pulled:

The post that was briefly advertised resulted from a review of the
Libraries, Registration & Archives Service being carried out as part of
the County Council’s transformation programme “Facing the Challenge”. The
review is one of 12 being conducted as part of an ongoing market
engagement and service review stream of activity. A paper was taken to the
County Council meeting in May 2014, and the preferred option was to
establish a Kent Trust to operate the service. The paper can be found at
the following link and is agenda item 12.

[1] https://democracy.kent.gov.uk/documents/g5522/Public%20reports%20pack%2015th-May-2014%2010.00%20County%20Council.pdf?T=10

As a result of this published decision, there was a need to consider the
best way for the service to contribute to the production of a full
business case which is the next stage of the process and additional
resource was considered. As a result, an exchange of e-mails occurred on
9 June 2014 between KCC and Connect2Kent (C2K). C2K provide a ‘vendor
managed service’ for Kent County Council in respect of the provision of
temporary agency workers and other non-directly employed workers. The
e-mail correspondence relates to setting up a meeting to discuss the
proposed Project Manager role. Copies of the e-mail are attached.

On 19 June 2014, a meeting took place involving KCC and C2K. The meeting
was an initial face to face briefing on the requirements of the project
management role and the type of candidate that would be required. The
intention of the meeting was to explore the range of possible candidates
available and therefore inform decision making about how to take this
particular project forward.

An advert that appeared on the [2]jobsinkent.com site (along with other
media) was placed by C2K without the involvement and approval from KCC.
This was not what was required and is the reason for the advert’s
subsequent withdrawal. When our initial response to your FOI stated “the
post was advertised without reference to Libraries” this was meant to
convey that it was placed without reference to the Libraries, Registration
and Archives service. Clearly the advert does mention Libraries and it is
unfortunate that the language in our original response was ambiguous, for
which I apologise.

The request to C2K to ensure that the advert was removed with immediate
effect was made by KCC on 30 June 2014. The request was made by telephone
and e-mail. A copy of the e-mail is attached.

For your information, the post of project manager has recently been filled
by an internal candidate. [Emphasis mine]

The full email exchange regarding the job advert can be read here.

The thing that jumps out more than anything is that the position has been filled internally. Presumably the appointment was made along the lines of the advert that was posted, although there has been no confirmation of this. It does, however, strike me as highly unlikely that the post filled bears no relation to the job description that clearly evolved as a result of discussion between KCC and C2K.

Essentially, the Council has decided that Kent libraries will be run under a Trust, perhaps by the end of 2015. Everything has been put in place. The Council leadership are clearly keen to drive it through. It would be a massive shock if a Trust does not happen, regardless of the (likely loaded) public consultation that will take place (watch out for limited choices that suggest either a Trust or library closures and/or job losses).

CLIK is in the news…

CLIK has made the news. News Shopper picked up on our fortunate stumbling across an interesting job advert that suggested Kent had already decided what the future holds for public libraries across the county. This job advert has become particularly interesting in light of the recent ruling in Lincolnshire where the council appeared to have decided its plans regardless of the outcome of a consultation (Kent County Council has not yet consulted with the public about library service provision across the county).

News Shopper reports:

“The ad has now been pulled but one councillor told News Shopper he was “not very happy” to hear about it being posted online and he is concerned about job cuts under the proposed restructure.”

The council has admitted that the advert was a “mistake” and that “as soon as this was spotted it was withdrawn immediately”. They go on to add:

“Further work is now being done to look at options and assess the viability of these proposals and how they might be implemented.

“No formal decisions have yet been taken and if the recommendations of this process are for a significant change in how libraries currently work, full public consultation will follow.”

Laughable that they are sticking with “if”. We will not be surprised if this route is confirmed following, of course, an entirely balanced consultation that will in no way lead people to accept the model they clearly desire.

Cllr Mike Hill added:

“No firm decisions would be made until a detailed business case is drawn up.”

Of course not Mike. We fully expect you to plot a democratic path, ensuring the people of Kent have a fair say in the future for libraries and we have full confidence that the dice will not be loaded in favour of the Trust model.

We will reserve judgement until we see the consultation. But we have little doubt about how it will be constructed. With little effective opposition, the Council will undoubtedly press ahead with what it wants regardless. Ahhhh…the sweet smell of Kentish democracy…


Labour Councillor Speaks Out

CLIK has also received the following comment from Labour councillor Tom Maddison:

As a Kent County Council Member for Dartford this information is helpful and worrying also.

Library Services are so integral to the communities they serve and the Democratic Local Authority charged with responsibility to provide them it is essential we get things right . We must make sure genuine and proper consultation takes place especially with the public and communities that depend on the service. We must take account of all views expressed before deciding on any major change in the present service model for our Libraries and that would include Trust`s model`s also .

I do worry that paid employment will be lost in favour of volunteers and this is not a proper way to run a Public Service especially Libraries.

Lincolnshire – a warning for Kent County Council

Congratulations to the Save Lincolnshire Libraries campaign who have won a judicial review over the council’s damaging plans for public libraries across the county. The grounds for the review are:

  1. that the consultation was unlawful as the decision had already been taken
  2. that the Council failed to ensure that the harm that was going to be caused by their decision was prevented, as required by the Equality Act
  3. that the Council failed to properly consider the proposal by Greenwich Leisure Limited ( a not for profit agency who had bid to run the library service). As a result the Council had failed in its duties under the Localism Act (1)
  4. that if the cuts go ahead Lincolnshire’s Library Service will no longer be comprehensive and efficient and therefore will breach the national requirements.

Kent County Council will, of course, need to pay particular attention to (1) not least because as yet there has been no consultation with the public regarding the council’s plans and yet the council had recently advertised a vacancy online (now withdrawn) asking for a candidate who will:

“…ensure the implementation and delivery of a trust model for Kent Libraries, Registration and Archives.”

It is hard to believe that such an advert could go out without senior authorisation. The question remains: have Kent County Council also made their decision before consulting with the public? We guess the answer will be clear in time…

Easy come, easy go…

After revealing yesterday that a post for a “Project Manager” to “ensure the implementation and delivery of a trust model for Kent Libraries, Registration and Archives” had been advertised on the Jobs in Kent website, today we discover that this vacancy has now disappeared. Apparently this was due to some internal mis-communication. Interesting.

We can also confirm that Cath Anley is not planning on being involved in any future plans for Kent libraries and is leaving to seek new horizons. We’re happy to put the record straight on Cath’s future plans.