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Unison Response


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Unison's Response to Doncaster Council's Library Cuts Proposals

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Unison Response

  1. 1. Appendix 1, Annex 1UNISON Summary in response to Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Councils Library Service ReviewUNISON challenges the proposals for Doncaster Library and Information service based on thefollowing points: • The consultation processes are seriously flawedThe questionnaires have been structured so as to lead people to respond in a particular way.The public are unclear about the proposals and are horrified and outraged when they discover theextent of what is proposed. The council has failed to properly inform the public about the libraryreview. 2,726 people were involved in the consultation process, which is less than 1% of thepopulation of Doncaster.The council has, on numerous occasions, claimed that this is an appropriate sample, as well ashaving misled the public in press interviews claiming that the majority of those asked wantedfewer libraries and volunteer-run services. This is not the case, as statistical analysis of theresponses demonstrates. Appendix 3 claims, that public consultation reinforces the view thatmajority of residents support the use of volunteers, while in fact Appendix A sates, “they did notsupport replacing static libraries with a mobile service, using volunteers to run the service...”. Itwould appear the author of the report is clearly not paying attention to the responses from thesurvey or deliberately trying to mislead Councillors and/or the public.It is also noted in appendix A, that only 94 respondents (3%) were under 16 and 810 (30%) wereover 65. This is clearly not representative of the population of Doncaster or the people who usethe Library Service. It is also claimed that the survey showed that people of Doncaster wantedfewer but higher quality libraries, technically this is correct, however 48% of those surveyed wereopposed to this. With such a low population sample and nearly 10,000 people signing a petitionagainst closures, UNISON questions the validity of this assumption.Furthermore, UNISON is concerned that communities in Intake and Balby haven’t had any realopportunity to have their views heard, as it was only on the publication of this report less than aweek ago that they were made aware that their Libraries would be closing. • There is no mandate to implement these cutsThe proposals are based on the views of a random sample of less than 1% of the boroughspopulation. Note: Approximately 10,000 people have signed a petition against the proposals. Thedemographic split of those involved in the consultation does not match that of the Doncasterpopulation as a whole. UNISON find it strange that 10,000 signatures are needed to even get fullcouncil to debate this issue, yet a survey of less than 3000 residents is being used to close 54% ofthe borough’s libraries. • The service and changes proposed are not based on a proper user needs analysisThere has been an overwhelming lack of thought invested in the proposals, which fail to take intoaccount the needs of the most vulnerable in Doncaster communities. Promises of mobileprovision, postal services and home deliveries are made but not costed into the proposals.Volunteers cannot be relied on for vital frontline services when the social capital of communitieshas not been investigated. UNISON fails to understand how the vision of supporting learning andskills, including digital inclusion, supporting communities and vulnerable people and supportingchildren, young people and families can be justified, with closure of 54% of the town’s libraries,
  2. 2. Appendix 1, Annex 1many in deprived communities. The library service becomes nothing more than a postcode lottery. • The proposals run contrary to the spread of the population and to public transport routes.The proposals for closure fail to take into account public transport links around the borough. Forexample, although Bawtry and Tickhill are four miles apart, there is no bus service and no footpathbeside the busy road. This makes it impossible for people without cars to access Tickhill library,which has been proposed as an alternative. Any realistic evaluation of the role played by publictransport links between communities would have highlighted glaring anomalies. For example,whilst proposing that residents of Bawtry might use the branch library at Tickhill, it is notacknowledged that for non-car users this would involve a journey which would necessitatecatching 4 buses and a round-trip of some 36 miles.UNISON notes that an Equality Impact Assessment is not included in this report, even though theLegal implications section of the report recommends one and indeed the Council is legally obligedto undertake one in order to identify any disproportionate impact on service users and/or Councilemployees according to disability, race or sex.The Council should take cognisance of the recent High Court ruling in a judicial review case againstLondon Councils, a cross-party organisation that is funded and run by London’s 32 Londonboroughs, the City of London, the Metropolitan Police Authority and the London Fire andEmergency Planning Authority. The Judge quashed a decision by London Councils to cut £10mfrom their £26.4m grants scheme to voluntary organisations. Mr Justice Calvert-Smith ruled thatthe consultation process was flawed and that they had not met their statutory equality duties.The Judge ordered a re-run of its consultation process with full equality impact assessments. • The proposals do not retain the most used librariesDespite claiming to do so, the strategy does not intend to retain the most used libraries. Severalbranches are earmarked to no longer receive a council run service. However these libraries arecurrently better used than many of the branches which are to remain open. This is not to suggestthat other libraries should close instead of those recommended, but that it is not appropriate toclose any library branches. Bawtry Library, for example, is not among the lowest ranking libraries inthe flawed points-based system, but it is likely that the council will be able to sell the premises asan interested party has already been identified. It is apparent that the decisions being made arenot in the interests of the public.UNSION questions the validity of the scoring used to identify which libraries are to close. We havenot been involved in discussions on this, but do note that 3 different versions of the report havebeen circulated and on each occasion the list of which libraries are to close has been changed. Wecan only presume this has been due to elected members lobbying for their library to stay open orthat the initial scoring was flawed. Either way, it brings into question the methodology used.UNISON questions the points-based system used to select the libraries to face closure; the pointsallocated are in many cases inaccurate and based on unsubstantiated data. • The proposals fail to meet the needs of the most vulnerableThe intention is to remove library services from some of the most deprived parts of Doncaster,such as Stainforth, Denaby, Wheatley, Rossington and Moorends. Libraries contribute to theeducation and well-being of communities, which is most needed in deprived areas with low levelsof educational attainment. These areas are also the least likely to be able to run community
  3. 3. Appendix 1, Annex 1libraries due to the levels of deprivation. UNISON is appalled that during a time of increasingunemployment facilities in our most deprived communities are to close, when they should beutilised to improve literacy and IT skills for those seeking work. UNISON fail to see how, as thereport claims, Doncaster’s priorities on a Prosperous Place, Skills and Lifelong Learning, Healthyand Caring, Safer, Cleaner& Greener, Equality of Opportunity, Improving Neighbourhoods,Protecting the Environment and Achieving Excellence are enhanced, if you live in a communitywhere your library is to close. • The proposals fail to address future needThere is little evidence of any serious consideration having been given to the future needs of theDoncaster citizens, such as population growth (as identified in the Doncaster Borough Strategy)and increasing unemployment. For instance, Balby Library is to close even though residential areasat Woodfield Plantation are likely to develop further. Deprived communities will enter a viciouscircle of decline as high unemployment causes further deprivation. • The proposals will significantly damage children’s literacyThese proposals will make it much harder for children to access library services; for the majority,the libraries in their communities will either no longer exist or not be open when they need them –particularly in the most deprived areas. This will create a two tier system where Children indeprived communities, who rely on the library service the most, will not have access to a library intheir own community. Families from deprived communities are less likely to travel to neighbouringlibraries and are less likely to have access to a car. • Methods of alternative governance for libraries are not a viable alternative in Doncaster (Better Libraries, Better Lives, 2010)The consultancy report conducted by Annie Mauger categorically states that Doncaster libraryservice is in no fit state to explore alternative governance models. The council has a legal duty toprovide a comprehensive and efficient service and cannot do this through volunteer-run librariesor libraries which are not funded by the council. Evidence suggests that you would need around 70volunteers to run a library efficiently, UNISON feel this would unachievable and is not a viableoption. Where volunteers are used in other areas of the country this tends to be in more affluentareas, where there are more retired professionals. Clearly the data from the consultations showsthis is not an option favoured by those who participated. • There is no strategy to implement these reductions beyond closing the libraries and throwing them to communities to runUNISON is concerned that there are only 2 options being considered. Detail is lacking on analternative delivery mechanism, with a vague promise to consult the communities affected afterthe decision has been made to close libraries. It is clear to UNISON that any consultation after adecision has been taken will not be carried out in good faith as the decision to close libraries willnot be overturned. UNISON believes this is undemocratic and not following good practice. UNISONalso believes that DMBC will have breached its legal obligation to consult with Trade Unions andStaff over how to avoid redundancies. Any consultation should be with a view to avoidingredundancies or mitigating against their effect and reaching agreement. This clearly would beunachievable if the decision to close libraries has already been taken. The case of UNISON v
  4. 4. Appendix 1, Annex 1Leicestershire County Council established that the duty to consult arises at the point at which theemployer first contemplates dismissals. Any failure to comply with this duty entitles a recognisedtrade union to lodge protective award claims against the employer. The maximum award that anemployment tribunal can order is 13 weeks pay for each affected employee. This is an additionalpotential cost that the Council should be aware of. • The savings are being overstatedThe proposals have been made without proper consideration of how much money will be saved inthe short-term (or how much will need to be spent). For example, it will cost £90k+ to move IThubs from libraries to be closed, £1-2k to board up each branch and £1,700 per week for securityat each site. The reduction in service will actually cost money in the first year and there is noguarantee it will save any money in the following years because the sites (with the exception ofBawtry) will not necessarily sell. The report fails to identify the cost of 40 redundancies, sotherefore savings will be less than predicted; whilst it also fails to identify any additional pensionscosts. There will also be a further loss to the economy of Doncaster with around 40 Library workersnot having the capacity to buy goods and services, due to being out of work.Detail is lacking on what proportion of savings will be reinvested in the service to create betterfacilities. The report talks of modernising the Library Service, but without this detail UNISONbelieve this purely a cost cutting exercise, which is not inline Doncaster’s Priorities outlined in thereport. UNISON’s view is at present this is little more than a Butchers Charter. • The savings are not proportionate to the Councils overall budget cuts.The library budget has been drastically reduced over the past five years and requires investment toenable the library service to become legally compliant (Better Libraries, Better Lives, 2010).UNISON finds it hard to rationalise such a statement with a 39% budget cut. The Better Libraries,Better Lives Report, notes the previous cuts in the service, to now make a further cut that isdisproportionate to savings being made in other service areas shows the contempt the Council hasfor an independent report they commissioned.UNISON believes that other savings could have been explored further, for instance DMBC’s currentstreet lighting costs are around £3m. Turning off every other street light would therefore save£1.5m the same amount of saving as the closing of 14 Libraries. UNISON is also aware that overthe coming 12mths we are likely to get most of our £3m returned from the Icelandic banking crisis.In addition, we are also aware that a further £3m may become available later this year, which iscurrently earmarked as a provision for DMBC’s contribution to SY Trading Standards. Therefore webelieve the cuts to the Library Service are uncalled for and further work should be done onalternative savings. • The overall service reduction may be illegalThis is a deeply disturbing package of reductions, and UNISON is not alone in questioning whetherthese proposals will fulfil the requirements of the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964, whichrequires the council to provide a ‘comprehensive and efficient’ library service. It is clear that theCouncil is aware of its legal obligation, but has not properly assessed at what point the libraryprovision below, would place the Council in breach of the Act. • The proposals to close 14 static branches will reduce the current network of 26 static and 2 mobile libraries by 54%
  5. 5. Appendix 1, Annex 1 • The proposed closures may make access to libraries impossible for a significant number of Doncaster citizens • There are no details about proposed changes in opening hours, which, if reduced, may fail to be comprehensive.• Summary • Seriously flawed public consultation process. • Lack of public support, indeed significant level of opposition. • Failure to carry out a proper needs analysis, which will lead to sections of the community being disenfranchised. • Failure to comply with Public Sector Equality Duty, which could give rise to a judicial review. • Failure to comply with Section 188 of the Trade Unions Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act, which could give rise to protective awards claims. • Significant risk to children’s literacy standards, particularly in areas of social and economic deprivation. • Unrealistic expectations regarding alternative governance, which is solely predicated on a volunteer-run service. • Failure to consider the full cost of closing 14 libraries, which means the projected savings are over-stated. • Disproportionate impact on the Libraries service within the context of the overall budget cuts across all areas of the Council. • The legacy of these proposals would be a wholly inadequate service, which would arguably not constitute a “comprehensive and efficient library service” as required by the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964.