Proposed Motion to Halt Changes to Surrey Library Service

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Residents in Surrey have sent an open letter to all councillors in the county, questioning the validity of the study proposing the closure of some libraries.

Issues of concern around the study include wrong and inconsistent figures, incorrect rankings of some libraries, incorrect proximity measurements (ie distance between libraries), illogical comparisons, lack of consideration of specific issues relevant to particular libraries, and calculation errors. (Further details here)

The letter asks the council to “stop the closure threat to our village libraries.”

Key comments made in the letter are:

  • Eleven libraries were selected for closure, even though some of these libraries were  “cost effective”
  • “Larger and declining libraries were deliberately excluded by the use of biased criteria.”
  • The study “does not address cost savings adequately and even fails to properly consider priority areas”
  • The decision about which libraries are to be selected (if any) should only be carried out once an internal audit and separate Information Commissioner’s Office audit has been carried out.
  • The need to fit in with the Big Society plan and save money in Surrey exists, but spreading “savings across all libraries will answer both these objectives and will not damage Surrey’s villages.”
  • “these savings are trivial when compared to Surrey’s budget and the harm which will be done to community life.”
  • Surrey should follow the example of other counties such as Gloucestershire, North Yorkshire and Dorset, who have rethought their plans following residents protests.
  • “We must build on the strengths we have in flourishing libraries, rather than gambling on untried and ill-thought out methods.”
  • The value of technology and volunteers in libraries is understood, but professional staff must also be part of the solution to “co-ordinate these volunteers and ensure sustainability.”
  • “We must ensure that our libraries can continue with their vital services to all Surrey residents – and especially to the vulnerable young and elderly.”
Alongside this, the following motion has been presented to the County Council for discussion on 19th July 2011.

“This Council notes with concern the large number of serious and significant errors which have now been admitted by the team who prepared the library Public Value Review study.

This Council further notes that the study used to identify 11 libraries:

i.            failed to accurately identify the least effective libraries.

ii.            was heavily biased in favour of larger libraries.

iii.            has never been audited in order to confirm its veracity.

This Council therefore calls upon the Council Leader and Cabinet to halt the current plans of removing staff from the selected libraries until the ongoing audit into this study is fully completed and the detailed results are made available for discussion.

It is now known that the PVR study:

  • has admitted errors in at least 10 libraries – in some cases more than one error.
  •  threatens to close half of the only eight thriving libraries in Surrey.
  • failed to properly compensate Merstham library for its priority status.
  • nonsensically compares visitors at one library (eg Bagshot) with visitors at libraries (eg Woking) which are over 30 times as large.
  • as already been criticised for its errors, criteria and methodology by an independent statistician.

Continuing with the current plans could do unjustified and irreparable harm to the community life at eleven villages in Surrey.

Surrey County Council will be known as the County which does not consult, could not get its sums right and was not even willing to stop – even when it knew it was wrong.”

(Original text here)

A lobby will also take place outside County Hall in Kingston on 26th July at 1pm. (Further details here)

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