Thursday, 29 September 2011

Tories sound death-knell for Surrey libraries

A few days ago I blogged about the temporary implosion of the Tory administration on Surrey County Council following the overthrow of their group leader. I also described how procedure meant that the deposed leader, Dr Povey, would remain council leader for the next cabinet meeting and speculated whether enough cabinet members would be left to make it quorate.

Unfortunately there were enough cabinet members to make the meeting quorate. And Dr Povey's last act as leader was to do immeasurable and completely unnecessary damage to libraries across Surrey.

Despite the fact that he knew that a new cabinet and a new leader with new policies would be taking over within a week, and despite the fact that the public gallery was filled with protesters asking the council to reconsider, he and what was left of his cabinet, passed changes which will mean the closure of every single mobile library in the county - the only way many people in the villages can borrow books - and the removal of paid staff at 21 libraries throughout the county.

In short, Surrey's libraries have well and truly been gutted by Povey's decision. What's even more appalling is that the council has a £54 million budget surplus and could easily afford not to cut the library services. The reasons behind these cuts are purely ideological as Povey believes in supporting the "big society" which, in practice, means cutting library services to the bone in order to force volunteers to take over the running of them or see their local library close.

Povey's last act as leader is utterly despicable and exactly what I have come to expect of Surrey council's tory administration. They should be ashamed of themselves and the public should hold them to account for their destruction of Surrey's libraries at the council elections in 2013.

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