Thursday 13 February 2014

Ed pops up!

Just when we were thinking (or hoping) that Ed had washed his hands off libraries he pops up all over the place, first in Corby, visits a couple of libraries, with Cllrs Savage (very apt!) and Harker in tow and then declares that;

“The library service in Northamptonshire has been designed with a clear focus on the needs of their communities, with Sunday opening and innovative use of volunteers helping to ensure that all their libraries remain open and provide wide range of support and services for the community,” Mr Vaizey said. “It’s an example from which others can learn. I know they are active in collaborating with other public library authorities and I want to see this continue and grow in the future.”
Northamptonshire CC calls its service ‘Library Plus’, operates within it a number of ‘Enterprise Hubs’ and relies heavily on volunteers to run the whole shebang. Just the kind of entrepreneurial, shared services, collocated and ‘Localism’ style service that Ed and the DCMS are striving towards, so it was really lucky that he just happened to be in the area!
But what Ed, the press and the councillors didn’t mention was the unscheduled closuresredundancies, budget cuts, thefall in visitor figures and the use of volunteers not only to prop the service up but also to substitute paid staff. Concernshave also been raised about collocating ‘children’s centres’ with libraries;

“expressed concerns that "libraries aren't the right environment for young family activities (including safeguarding concerns relating to full public access and confidentiality issues)", and some raised worries about accessibility and location.”

John Wignall has very kindly allowed me to publish his comment about Ed’s visit;

“I find the report on Ed Vaizey’s visit to Northants depressing and distressing. It is not at all in tune with what I hear from former colleagues who have nearly all lost their jobs. The report from 2013 presents a truer picture of the situation”

Ed then, just to show that he really cares about libraries, pops up on National Libraries Day in Kent, at Deal Library. Kent is becoming a ‘commissioning council’, a local authority that doesn’t run its own services, including libraries, but outsources them to private firms and other providers. So just the kind of privatising model that the government likes, Ed really is good at picking his library visits isn’t he?

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