Library outrage sparks petition
Published 19 Jun 2011 12:30 7 Comments
A CAMPAIGN has been launched against plans to privatise libraries in the Wokingham borough.
Rachelle Shepherd-DuBey and Anthony Vick, who stood unsuccessfully as Lib Dem candidates in last month's elections, sparked fury from the council's Tory leadership after setting up the "Save Our Libraries" campaign on Monday and launching a petition at Woodley Library the following day.
Rachelle Shepherd-DuBey said: "I am appalled by the thought of companies making a profit out of libraries. Libraries should be for the benefit of residents, not city sharks.
"I am worried that the only way private companies can make a profit will be to close libraries and increase charges to residents."
Mr Vick added: "It is wrong to make money out of the customer and we plan to visit all of the libraries in the borough to get as many petition signatures as possible."
Wokingham Lib Dem councillors are "furious" that the council is pushing ahead with plans to privatise the borough's libraries without putting safeguards in place to protect the services. Lib Dem leader, Cllr Prue Bray, said: "It seems the Conservatives are hellbent on handing the service over to a commercial company, who will want to make a profit. Who knows what that could mean for the existing library services?"
The Conservative-led council agreed plans to outsource the library services last month in a bid to save £170,000 a year and it has now invited companies to come forward and bid for the five-year contract, which would begin next year.
But Cllr David Lee, leader of the council, described the campaign as "laughable" and "madness." He said: "We are the worst funded unitary authority in the country and we are not cutting the library service, so I don't see the point of this petition when we, as a council, have said we are keeping the services.
"This plan means we will be able to save money and give a better service, so I do not know what the petition is campaigning to save the libraries from. We are still providing the service that the residents want, but it is nonsense to think that all of the services have to be run directly by the council at Shute End."
For more information on the campaign, visit http://save-our-libraries.blogspot.com/
Have your say. Post a comment on this article.
Jun 19, 13:49
It is a nice choice of words by the council leader to describe the residents/taxpayers' democratic right to raise a petition as "laughable" and "madness". One might suppose that any leader in public office who maintains that everyone is mad except himself and his followers might be requested to re-visit the The Good Councillors Guide. Or is that out of the question once one has achieved high office ? A purely rhetorical question, but perhaps it is one that might be asked by those who wish to exercise their democratic rights in our society ('Big' or otherwise). I take the liberty of commenting, from Swindon, only because this article will be circulated nationally and posted on Twitter. The issues raised, and statements made, are of national interest.
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Matthew S Dent
Jun 19, 18:48
As much as I don't like this being made a party political issue by the Lib Dems, the petition is completely the right thing to do. I have signed it, and I urge everyone else for whom these privatisation plans are a cause of concern to do the same.
I would also point out, that it is only because of the Lib Dems in national government that the cuts and general proliferation of rhetoric of the smaller state and privatisation are occurring. They should not put themselves off as having clean hands on this matter.
But for a resident in Wokingham Borough, in the village of Wargrave, library privatisation is a deeply scary concept. Wargrave is a small village, and the library is a community centre for the local people. If it is put at risk, then the whole fabric of the village will be put at risk.
Due to the resignation of one of the councillors representing Wargrave (ironically, due to Tory arrogance), there will soon be a by-election. This will be an opportunity for local residents to make their feelings heard about libraries and all of the other assaults on their public services. Here's hoping that they remember who it is who is playing ideological games with their library.
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Jun 19, 20:31
A full review of the pros and cons of privatiising public libraries and the situation so far in this country, including in Wokingham, can be found at http://www.publiclibrariesnews.com/p/privatized-and-volunteer-libraries.html
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Cllr Keith Baker
Jun 22, 13:47
I do not want to dampen anyone from signing any petition but in this case what you are objecting to is not actually the case. As a member of the executive who made the decision I can tell you quite emphatically that we HAVE NOT agreed to privatise the Libraries.
What we have done is to ask interested parties to recommend how our library system can be improved. Depending on the replies we may then take the next step and start a tendering process to outsource the running of the libraries whilst retaining full ownership of all the assets. It is possible that this final step will not be taken. NOT because the Liberal Democrats have made a noise but becuase it is not the right thing to do!
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Jun 23, 14:58
Outsourcing (an interesting yet softer word than privatisation) the running of PUBLIC libraries to a private company will surely only mean that any such private company will want to run those PUBLIC libraries at a profit. No private company would wish to take on the task without making profit from doing it. So it begs the question how can a profit be made without either reducing staff, paying staff less, charging more for services, or opening libraries for fewer hours or ultimately closing libraries down ? Private companies could introduce other means to generate income, like coffee bars or charging for facilities like the internet but ultimately they will have to do whatever else it takes to get the profit/returns they seek. In the short run outsourcing may provide the council with the savings it craves but in the medium term it is back to PUBLIC libraries and services they offer being threatened, because profit is the driver for private companies not service to the PUBLIC. Sadly it will be the PUBLIC who lose out .
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Jun 30, 20:09
Never trust a liberal, they'll stitch you up quick as a whippet. Nor a man such as David Lee; with the amount of hair spray that fella is shooting his barnet with another capital O has appeared in that there O-zonio...
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Jul 3, 11:23
Let's deal with facts: Wokingham Council's executive committee has put out a tender for our library service; the deadline for submissions of interest (a pre-qualification questionnaire) passed on July 18th; the tender does not require libraries to remain open; and, the council's executive members are hoping to outsource the library service by next May.
The question everyone needs to ask themselves is whether they think this is a good idea.
I believe it's self-evident that a private company will seek to make a profit, through maximising a return on its investment, and charging as much as possible for its services. I worry about where this will leave the less prosperous who rely on the service? What will remain of our libraries after 5 to 8 years of private management? Whether we'll be able to reverse the changes? And, if our libraries will become glorified Blockbuster, CostaCoffee or Waterstones outlets?
As Cllr Keith Baker points out, the final decision has not yet been made, Wokingham Council is evaluating offers and may ultimately (fingers crossed) choose not to outsource our libraries. I don't believe that registering our concern is either laughable or madness. The Save Our Libraries campaign is about asking Wokingham's executive to re-think its plans, and, if we get enough signatures, forcing a debate in the main council chamber.
If you're concerned too, then please sign the petition, you can sign on-line from http://www.save-our-libraries.blogspot.com/ , or sign a paper copy outside your local library when you see one of our campaigners. We'll be posting news and updates on our website and invite you to join in and help out.
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