For legal reasons, Councillors have to tread very carefully in how they get involved in the proposals to convert 10 Council run libraries into Community managed Libraries.
The subtleties have left many Councillors concerned that they may, accidentally, cross the line and be subject to some form undefined action against them. The following extract from a leaked document details the advice, and the issues.
1 Role of councillors in relation to CMLs
Following discussions at the Executive Scrutiny Board meeting on 1 August Janie Berry (Legal Officer) has provided the following advice regarding the role of councillors in relation the establishment and operation of Community Managed Libraries.
“I can confirm that I have read and considered the advice provided by the Head of Legal Services in respect of the role of Councillors in the Council’s Strategic Review of the Library Service.
The purpose of this Advice Note is to add further clarification for the role of Councillors.
At this stage, it is anticipated that Councillors will use their local knowledge and experience to assist the Council in:
- Raising awareness of the aims of the Strategic Review
- Bring together individuals and community groups and local volunteers to share views
- Facilitate and promote links between interested individuals and groups with the Council so as to ensure appropriate information and any relevant timelines are shared.
The Localism Act does not, in any way, prevent a Councillor from carrying out his or her rights and functions as a democratically elected local leader / representative.
All of the above is based upon the Council’s proposal, now implemented following the call-in meeting on 1 August, ie Option B+.
However, where advice from the Head of Legal Services is particularly pertinent, is upon the development / establishment and identification of the community group which seeks to take on a community managed library.
I strongly advise that Councillors do not become official members of the official group(s) seeking to run / manage the library. In doing so, this would create a potential conflict and certainly cause an instance whereby a declaration of interest would be required.
Some Councillors may well have vested interests in ensuring that their Library remains open, especially if they are up for re-election next year, and may be tempted to over-step the mark, to drive through progress. One for everyone to watch out for to ensure that no conflict of interest arises.