I’ve been forwarded an email by a number of people who are desperate to protect the Hammersmith library service from cuts, and jobs and service downgradings.
The email exchange is between a local union rep and H&F Tory councillor Greg Smith, cabinet member for the (deliciously-named) Residents’ Services department and the councillor responsible for the libraries ‘restructure.’
In the email, the rep pleads with Smith to visit staff at the very popular, but-soon-to-be-disbanded, home library service (this dedicated service, which is run centrally from Barons Court library, will be devolved to other Hammersmith libraries. They’ll have to find time and staff for home deliveries – at a time of cuts and staff downgradings).
The rep suggests that Smith join home library staff on one of their rounds to the housebound people who rely on the service for delivery of library books and DVDs (at any one time, there are 6000 books on loan to service users).
Smith’s answer – a resounding No Thanks – turned up just 12 minutes after the rep sent the original.
I reproduce the email here – not just because it demonstrates the airy Tory dismissal of service users and staff that speaks – if you will – such volumes, but because it points up the worrying lack of interest in consultation that I’m finding more and more.
This failure to consult and incorporate public responses into decisions leaves a council open to ratings failures (or did in the days when we had an Audit Commission carrying out annual ratings of council performance).
Eric Pickles plans to sort all that by ditching the commission and witching up processes that “will pass power down to people, replace bureaucratic accountability with democratic accountability and save taxpayers £50million a year.” That concept sounds fabulous. Pity the likes of this email bode so badly for it:
The rep wrote to Smith:
“This morning I met with Library Staff who deliver the outreach Library service to the borough. This service is part of a Library reorganisation proposal which intends to dissolve this dedicated service. Residents and Staff have not been informed of how a new service would run and are very concerned that this excellent service provided to our most vulnerable residents for the past 10 years will be lost or diminish.
“The HLS are currently just 2 part time and 1 full time staff members (Scale 4) who run this service (including the administration) the team work very well together and received excellent feedback from the HLS client questionaire that was carried out earlier this year. They have their own dedicated Library in the basement of Barons Court, there are currently 6000 books loaned out to residents and residential homes. I believe this provides excellent value for money and is vital for the community.
“The staff would like to invite you to meet with them and perhaps go on one of their rounds with them, this would give you the opportunity to see how this service works and meet some of the users of the service.
“I hope you can support this service and I look forward to hearing from you.”
Smith’s near-immediate response:
“Thank you for your email.
“I feel I have all the information I need and will not require a meeting with these staff.
“It is important to note that whilst the mobile library service is being considered for termination, the housebound service is not.”
Not even a courtesy meeting with staff or service users, then. It isn’t at all courageous. Nor is it representative. I note that the council’s 10 January cabinet agenda reports that only 1% of all Hammersmith and Fulham library members took part in the council’s consultation on its library restructure (the consultation was run during school summer holidays). Of those, 66% disagreed with the notion that having fewer libraries was the best way forward.