Libraries

Libraries Strategy ; the floundering, failing policy and the forgotten Council staff who continue to wait for their future.

The Council’s Libraries Strategy has run aground!

Despite overly positive rhetoric from Council Officers about how well the Libraries project is doing, the evidence does not bear this out at all. At best they are “travelling hopefully” rather than driving to committed plans. The savings are not being delivered, it’s costing the Council more than budget, and causing on-going misery for the paid Council staff who’s future is on-hold whilst someone, somewhere decides what to do next.

It is time for this whole sorry saga to be stopped.

The current position:

    • The Central library closed in the summer to be replaced by the much smaller Riverside library located in the Council House. The old library building will be used by Derby Museums for their purposes.
      • The planned cost of the move was £859k, with annual planned savings of £128k
    • It was agreed in March 2018 that 10 of the 15 City libraries would be progressively transferred to Direct Help and Advice (DHA) as “Community Managed Libraries” (CML). The plan was for completion by December 2018. A simple planned transfer rate of 1 library per month. Completion by December was necessary to deliver the budgetted savings. (NB The significant proportion of all savings come from making staff redundant)
      • Thus far, only 3 have been transferred as CMLs to DHA. The other 7 are still under Council control. On a simple rate of 1 per month – 6 should have been transferred by now.
        • Sinfin library – May 14 2018
        • Spondon – June 25 2018
        • Allestree – July 30 2018
      • The remaining 7 libraries would have to be transferred at a rate of around 1 every 1-2 weeks to maintain the December 2018 end date – there is no plan to achieve this.
    • None of these CMLs are being run by the community. The staff behind the counter in all 3 of these libraries are Derby City Council paid library staff and , in many cases, managers.
        • There are NO volunteers checking in/out books behind the counter. As there are not enough Library Managers, a number of Assistants are being paid extra to act as “stand in” managers at an increased cost to the Council!
        • The reason that no volunteers are involved in the 3 CMLs is due to the fact that the Council has not addressed the requirements of the new General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) regarding consent for non-Derby City Council employees to access personal data. And there is no committed end in sight.
        • This was highlighted in my article of May 7 2018 : “Derby City Council likely to breach new Data Protection Regulations with Library strategy”
        • It was only after this date that the plan changed to prevent volunteers from using the computer database, Library Management System. It was never the plan that Library Managers would work full shifts behind the counter in the CMLs.
        • According to Claire Davenport, Director of Leisure, Culture and Tourism in an Executive Scrutiny Board on 11 September 2018, the action, not to gain consent, before the implementation of GDPR was planned, and was done to save the Council money. This is a ridiculous assertion –delaying implementation of GDPR to save money would not be a defence in the event of a data breach. The fact that the plan to resolve this omission was supposed to take a few weeks, from May, and now, in September there is no quoted end point, raises many questions.
        • Currently the process asks people, when they visit the library, if they consent to DHA having access to their personal data. This will have to be repeated as in the Sinfin Library,  the volunteers are managed by the Citizens Advice South Derbyshire and City (CAB) which is a separate organisation. Consent has to be given, specifically.
    • Despite the apparent good progress, Cllr Grimadell, Cabinet member for Leisure, Culture and Tourism announced at the Full Council meeting on 12th July 2018, that there would be a “pause” in the programme to allow a review to take place, and that this would be complete by mid-August. This is still outstanding.
      • Claire Davenport was asked in the 11 September Executive Scrutiny Board what the position was with the Review, as the August date had passed. She explained that, by August, the plan was that they would only have finished their “Information gathering”. The report would be much later – loosely, a further 4-6 weeks. It was very clear, at the time, and this is documented that the “outcome” would be available by mid-August. The final report has slipped by 2 months with no explanation!
    • Sinfin library has been branded a success because of the increase in footfall. This fails to recognise and acknowledge that the Citizen’s Advice Bureau is now located inside the library; the footfall will have increased but not just because it has been converted to a CML.
      • No figures have been reported for Spondon and Allestree.
    • Volunteer support is patchy, especially for Spondon; the library has not opened on a few days due to lack of support.
      • The full robustness of the volunteer support across all 3 libraries has not been tested whilst ever the core staffing is still from Council library management.
      • The CML model is about volunteer management in the community. This is not in place yet. Volunteer Steering groups do not manage the facility.
    • One of the selling points of CMLs was that “enhanced services” could be brought into each library – to allow additional opening hours, new activities, to develop the “community hub”.
      • Claire Davenport was asked, at the Scrutiny Meeting, what additional services have been implemented in the CMLs – her answer – coffee machines have been installed. It is correct to say that CAB is located in Sinfin library however this was more of a strategic move for them, than an “enhanced service” requested by the community.
    • Statements  continue to be made that savings from this project are “on plan”. This does not bear any examination at all. The savings in 2018/19 will not be delivered.
      • The total planned annual savings from the strategic review, when complete will be £648k pa
      • The plan for the current year (2018/19) is £337k
      • It was reported at the Cabinet on 8th August 2018 that £38k of the £337k would not happen this year due to slippages that still assumed December 2018 completion.
      • The significant majority of the savings come from staff redundancies as libraries transfer to CMLs. As the 3 current CMLs are still run by library staff, then there are NO savings from this stream.
      • Mathematically, to achieve £300k savings in 6 months then all redundancies will need to be enacted by September 30th 2018. This has not happened, and is unlikely to happen in 2018.

What next?

Nothing further will happen on this project until there is a report back to the Cabinet. By that time, the review process will have taken longer than it took to implement the 3 initial libraries.

If  the report concludes that the programme should continue unchanged, then DHA will have around 7 weeks to implement 7 libraries.

Comment

The “review” of this strategy is not delayed because it is inherently complicated, it’s because the strategy has lost its way.  It was clear to anyone who asked questions right from the outset ( before DHA were involved), and many of my earlier articles covered this, that the strategy was ill-thought through, and was not capable of being implemented. It was pushed through for political expedience.

The library staff who were fully expecting to lose their jobs have been left dangling, precariously, for many months; people were interviewed back in June to see who would stay, and who would be made redundant – there are still no answers.

Disappointingly, no questions were asked during the presentation at Executive Scrutiny about the staff redundancy situation.

The biggest risk to this programme was, and is,  the lack of volunteers.  This is not just about numbers, but about the right range of skills and, most importantly, a sufficient number of people, who can commit substantial time to be available for managing the facilities. This has not been tested yet. Vague reassurances have been given, but no one really knows.

The failure of this strategy is being glossed over by so much superficial spin from Council Officers which seems to be easily absorbed by Councillors who fail to scrutinise beyond a very cursory level. Unfortunately it is one of those subjects, where no one wants to ask difficult questions…for political reasons!

      • The Labour group would not want to challenge it too much as it was their strategy and more forensic questioning would open up the flaws in the original plan.
      • The Conservative group’s easy option is to make it work, however, there is no drive, and leadership to overcome the problems, from the Officers. Stopping the strategy presents contractual / financial problems. Also any change will present the opportunity for the Labour group to be on the offensive.

The consequence, a floundering failing policy, no sight of the required savings, and 40+ staff who have been forgotten about, and  who’s lives continue to be on hold!

There is a simple answer to this, which will solve all the problems, and create a community led vision for the future ( and which reflects what is actually happening in the 3 CMLs now) – Community Supported Libraries! 

Categories: Libraries

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2 replies »

  1. surprise, surprise. It was all destined to fail before it started. Reverse this ludicrous process (no not Brexit) now.

  2. Derby city council when are you going to get your act together and start doing things right and stop wasting the resources you have. Seems every time you try to save money it costs DERBY residents more money We pay for services not more managers to over see out sourced services

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