‘What a waste to go full circle on county libraries’

Flashback to July 2014  with Coun Dilks (right) and campaigners celebrating outside the High Court.
Flashback to July 2014 with Coun Dilks (right) and campaigners celebrating outside the High Court.

Critics of county council library reforms say hundreds of thousands of pounds were wasted to go full circle and award the contract to Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL).

In July 2014, Save Lincolnshire Libraries won a High Court judicial review when Mr Justice (Andrew) Collins effectively said council plans to slash the number of libraries it ran from 45 to 15 were unlawful – because it had failed to properly consider GLL’s offer to run the whole service.

There was a second judicial review, which the county council won, and many of the 30 libraries shoved into the hands of volunteers have reopened as community hubs.

In April this year, the council started looking for an outside group to run the service and GLL along with Vision and Vivacity were short-listed from six who applied.

On Tuesday the council announced its executive will be asked to award the contract to GLL.

County council Labour group leader John Hough told the Spalding Guardian: “Conversion on the road to Damascus one always welcomes, but it has been at a cost. We are talking hundreds of thousands of pounds.”

Labour’s shadow spokesman on libraries, Coun Phil Dilks from Deeping St James, said GLL originally offered to run the whole service within the reduced budget and without cutting jobs or opening hours.

He said a report criticised the county council as “being bottom of the heap of all the shire counties at running libraries”.

“The whole attitude of Lincolnshire County Council was ‘we can’t run libraries within this reduced budget and nor can anyone else,” said Coun Dilks. “They have thrown more than £1million at this back of a fag packet idea and we have gone full circle back to GLL.”

Council executive member for libraries Nick Worth couldn’t be reached today (Wednesday) to respond to the criticisms.

On Tuesday, Coun Worth said: “All the finalists submitted good bids, but officers believe our best option is to outsource our library services to GLL.

“We’ve worked hard to get the best possible deal, and are confident that GLL can provide both significant savings and improved performance.

“I’m sure the executive will give this matter careful consideration, and take the decision that is in the best interests of taxpayers.

“In the meantime, we continue to work with local groups to get the new community hubs up and running.

“18 have already opened their doors to the public, with a further 16 on the way.

“I’m sure the end result of all this hard work will be a new-and-improved library service that not only provides better value for money, but is also better suited to the 21st century.”

• If the executive decides to award a contract, it would mean from April 2016 that GLL would take on the running of the county’s 15 major libraries, along with online services and specialist support for those unable to reach their nearest library because of, for instance, disability, age or ill health.

GLL would also help support the library services delivered at around 30 community hubs that are being developed in partnership with local groups.

Previously ...

Community library for Holbeach to open soon

Save Lincolnshire Libraries respond accusing county council of ‘broken promise’

Will company run libraries?