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Conservatives admit that library plan is a dead parrot

May 29, 2012 1:56 PM
Originally published by Surrey County Council Lib Dems

Dead ParrotCounty Council admits plan to run libraries with volunteers will not save Council Taxpayers a penny

The Conservative administration on Surrey County Council has finally admitted that after months of fighting local residents in the High Court, the plans for 10 of the county's libraries to be run by volunteers will not save local Surrey Council Taxpayers a penny.

In a response to a written question to the Conservative-run Cabinet from Cllr Hazel Watson, the Liberal Democrat Leader of the Opposition, the administration stated "There are no expected financial savings in 2012 - 2013 in the Library Service as a result of Community Partnered Libraries proposals and there are no expected annual savings as a result of the Community Partnered Libraries proposals."

Speaking in response to the statement, Hazel Watson said: "The Conservatives are arrogantly pressing ahead with their plans for communities to run their own libraries instead of professional librarians, despite the wishes of Surrey residents and losing the High Court battle.

"The Conservative administration had from the outset claimed that the plans would save money, they have now admitted they were wrong.

"The Conservative administration's plan to press ahead with volunteer run libraries is an insult to the many Surrey residents who have campaigned vigorously to keep their local libraries fully staffed by professional librarians. Now it has been proven that it is only being pursued for dogma not to save money.

"The Conservative-run Cabinet claims that its aim is to 'Keep all of Surrey's libraries open while elsewhere in the country branches are closing'. This suggests there is no choice. It is clear from what they have now said that there is an alternative - to keep libraries fully staffed with professional librarians.

"The County Council must now abandon its ill-conceived plans for a two-tier library service and maintain a professionally run library service for all of Surrey's residents."

NOTE:

The question tabled by Cllr Hazel Watson, and the answer in response are:

CABINET - 29 MAY 2012

ITEM 4 - PROCEDURAL MATTERS

RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS

Member Questions

Question (1) from Mrs Hazel Watson (Dorking Hills):

What are the expected financial savings in 2012/13 in the Library Service as a result of the Community Partnered Libraries proposals?

What are the expected annual savings as a result of the Community Partnered Libraries proposals?

What are the budgeted training costs per volunteer in the Community Partnered Libraries proposals at start up?

Given that New Haw Library Community Partnership have sent an open letter to the Chief Executive stating that they have 150 volunteers, what is the projected total training cost at start up for the whole programme of 10 Community Partnered Libraries?

What are the proposals for ensuring that all new volunteers in the future receive training before they start volunteering?

What are the budgeted costs of administering the register of volunteers to ensure they all receive training in line with the recent High Court judgment and what are the expected ongoing annual costs of training volunteers?

Reply:

There are no expected financial savings in 2012 - 2013 in the Library Service as a result of Community Partnered Libraries proposals and there are no expected annual savings as a result of the Community Partnered Libraries proposals.

No additional costs are being incurred by the service in the roll out and ongoing support for Community Partnered Libraries. The provision of the team to support Community Partnered Libraries (including the time to be spent at the CP Libraries, and providing training and on-going support etc) is being met from existing capacity and arrangements that already provides the managerial and administrative support to these libraries.

Support to the Community Partnered libraries in terms of training key volunteers has been carefully planned and is part of the Council's ongoing commitment of support from the library service. All training will be carried out by experienced staff and will be based on training that is already delivered to library staff, but adapted for the Community Partnered Libraries and volunteers. The costs of the Community Partnered Libraries support team per annum is £106,083 but, as stated above, this has been achieved by realignment of staff roles and is not an additional cost.

The support team will be present for 20% of opening hours per week. The role of the support team is to work with the community partnership in training and supporting their volunteers. Needs may change over time, from getting up and running, to moving on to more ambitious activities like running events and learning programmes, and what the team provide will also change to meet the needs of each library at that time.

The agreement signed for each partnership between the community partner and Surrey County Council - and its associated performance monitoring and performance procedures - will ensure that all volunteers receive key training before they start volunteering and ongoing monitored and evaluated training and development. The community partner is responsible for its volunteers and will be keeping registers of volunteers and their training which will be regularly mutually checked and reviewed by the community partner in conjunction with the Community Partnered Libraries Support Team.

The Community Partnered Libraries support team will be meeting very regularly with the steering group for that library, to discuss how the library is progressing and identify how best the support team can help and will work closely with the senior volunteer organiser for each library to identify and deliver what support is needed. The team will also provide necessary updates as library procedures and services change.

The local organisations we are working with have shown a great deal of energy, passion and ideas for improving their local library, and for making greater community use of the library buildings outside of library opening hours. We believe they will be able to bring many benefits to their communities.