Friday 22 July 2016

The DCMS & Civil Society (and Ed!)

Recently an announcement was made by the government that could have a fundamental effect on the future of public libraries in the UK, responsibility for the government's 'Civil Society' (Charities, SocEnts, Mutuals etc) agenda has shifted from the Cabinet Office to the DCMS. The Minister involved is Rob Wilson who has also been given the DCMS libraries brief. This change takes place shortly after a ministerial re-shuffle that saw John Whittingdale being replaced by Karen Bradley and Ed Vaizey by Matt Hancock.
This move is seen by many as an attempt by the government to re-position and re-invigorate (or even demote) their 'Big Society' agenda;

"Under cover of darkness the Office for Civil Society, a shadow of its former self, slips, almost unnoticed, out of the Cabinet Office, shuffles across Whitehall and finds refuge in the cavernous DCMS." 

But why might all this be bad news for public libraries? Well although we've only got a handful of library mutuals we've definitely seen a push towards offloading library services to Social Enterprises, Charitable Trusts etc and with the Minister for Civil Society now holding the libraries brief within the DCMS I would be very surprised if their wasn't an escalation. Add to this the fact that the new 'Libraries Minister', Matt Hancock, is a Suffolk MP and that Suffolk Libraries are an Independent & Provident Society (IPS) then you can start to see why I'm getting twitchy.

And as for Ed Vaizey, his tenure as the longest serving 'Libraries Minister' was a complete and utter disaster for public library services, users and staff. During his reign we lost 8000 paid/trained library staff, 343-600+ libraries (figure depends on whether you count volunteer-led 'libraries' as closed); saw a 93% increase in volunteers, a huge decrease in budgets/opening hours and an escalation in privatisation/commercialisation. He also treated campaigners with contempt, blocking them on twitter and breaking his promise to debate with them in a public meeting.
Although he was very vocal about library cuts/closures in opposition he refused to intervene or speak out when in power, a total dereliction of his duties and leadership remit under the 1964 Act.

1 comment:

  1. It’s a strike to try and stop the Council from making more cuts and handing their libraries over best essay writing service to volunteers, a disastrous policy which has resulted in drops in usage at the existing volunteer -led 'libraries' of 60-90%.