Monday, 30 May 2011

Surrey County Council tories just don't get it

There's a wonderful piece over on ConservativeHome where Cllr Andrew Povey, the leader of Surrey County Council, is singing the praises of the way the council's cuts to the library budget are leading to the involvement of volunteers from the local community and how wonderful it is to see the Big Society in action.

In short, it's arrogant, bragging drivel. But it's more than that though, it's also incredibly dishonest. In the comment thread below a man has comprehensively shown the utter mendacity and dishonesty of Povey's piece. Here's what that commenter had to say:
"I'm playing a leading role in one of the campaigns to save one of these Surrey libraries (sorry about the length but I have steam coming out of my ears): 
1. SCC's "consultation" broke SCC's own rules by not consulting with any of the affected communities at all before the decision was announced. There was no consultation, has been no consultation and will be no consultation: just an ultimatum "find volunteers or the library closes". 
2. The total saving from this proposal is 2% of the libraries budget - not the whole SCC budget - (ie, £200,000 from a £10M annual budget). Reading SCC's own £500+ spending decisions each quarter make me ever angrier as I see what they spend their money on: spending on "posh" taxis (ie, firms that I have validated charge 50% more for the same journey as standard taxis like you and I use)exceeds the entire savings from the libraries budget for example. 
3. The communities with threatened libraries put forward models to achieve greater savings than the £200,000 required savings by increasing volunteering at all libraries while reducing professional staffing at all. SCC have never addressed this point despite repeated attempts to get them to do so. 
4. As any volunteer organization knows, the issue is not getting the volunteers, it is organizing the volunteers and it is this for which essential core funding should still be provided by SCC but isn't. Rejecting any consultation, SCC have refused to even debate this point. 
5. One of the biggest insults is that despite organizing to get our group of volunteers, over 6 weeks on from meeting with SCC just to understand what the role of volunteers would be (something you'd think they'd have thought through), we've still not had the courtesy of a response from SCC. 
Andrew may be delighted at the response of Surrey residents. That's because Surrey residents value their libraries as they do their schools, and with SCC having given us an ultimatum "run your library with volunteers or the library closes" we've had no choice but to respond.
They didn't consult, they haven't thought it through, they haven't responded to the communities who have found volunteers, they could find the required savings in other ways just from the libraries budget let alone elsewhere, and prioritising many of the things they do spend money on over the libraries service is incredible. 
I'm a fan of increasing volunteering at libraries to save money and reinvent the role of libraries. I'm not a fan of SCC's cack-handed approach to doing so."
I think that says it all really. Surrey County Council should be hanging their heads in shame over their cuts to the library service and the roughshod way in which they did it. And the real tragedy here isn't the libraries which will be kept open thanks to volunteers. The real tragedy is that Surrey County Council is completely scrapping its mobile library service. And guess who depends on the mobile library service? Housebound elderly people in the main who will now be unable to access the libraries at all. Young people such as myself might not use libraries much but elderly people (the majority of whom lack internet access) often depend upon them.

Cllr Povey should be embarrassed about what his council has done. The fact that he's trying to spin it into some kind of triumph just shows what sort of toad* he really is.

* For legal reasons this is not my actual opinion, despite the fact that it blatantly is/

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