Sunday, 20 March 2016

County Council invites bids to run Museums and Libraries

Lancashire County Council has begun inviting bids to run Lancashire's museums and libraries - even though they've yet to identify which libraries they plan to close.

Community groups and volunteers are being invited to run services in Lancashire the county council says it can no longer afford. The services face being cut as a result of draconian, politically motivated cuts on public spending by the Tory government that increasingly appear to be more about the privatisation and sell off of state assets rather than a claimed means of reducing government debt.

The County Council plans to close 40 libraries (which it still has not identified, despite asking for 'opinions' on the plan) and withdraw funding for five museums, including Lancaster's Judges' Lodgings.

The BBC reports County Councillor Marcus Johnstone, cabinet member for environment, planning and cultural services at LCC, had said talks with volunteers were at an early stage.

"We are working very hard behind the scenes and talking to a number of organisations who may be able to continue to run our historic museums, although no decisions have yet been reached."

Sadly, despite much hand-wringing, the closure of libraries hasn't deterred Labour county councillors from closing them in the past,even before the recession. They previously instituted unpopular cuts to library services in 2006 rather than institute economies suggested by rival political parties.

Nationally, over 10 per cent of UK libraries are currently under threat – over 500 out of a total UK public library provision of just over 4500. The Voices for the Library group noted that library closures and cutbacks are determined by the local authority, but may be influenced by spending/ funding restrictions imposed on them by central government.

The duty of a local council to provide a “comprehensive and efficient library service” is a legal obligation under the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act. The Act also prohibits charging for book loans.

Some councils are suggesting that library services can be run by volunteers - and Lancaster Library, for example, already has a terrific "Friends" group who work hard to support it - but this takes no account of the professional and ethical standards to which professional librarians must adhere, including data protection.

Fighting back: the 10 minute guide to library campaigns (this might involve writing to gutless Tory MPs who support the theft of public assets)

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