Wednesday, 14 November 2012

A tale of two cities (and a borough)

Now Gateshead just across the river from Newcastle are getting rid of some of there libraries, 5 of their 17 they are either handing to volunteers or closing. For anyone unfamiliar with the area Gateshead and Newcastle are practically on top of each other, the council offices are only three miles apart:
Almost spitting distance
Meanwhile in Sunderland 12 miles down the road their City Council had a couple of years ago made big cuts to their book spend but are now putting it back up by 340k and as far as I'm aware are not currently planning on cutting any of their library network. Obviously Sunderland seem to be taking the more enlightened approach. What annoys me is the rush by Gateshead and Newcastle to either close the libraries or hand them to volunteers when they have three separate authorities all with three separate management and professional and service support structures. They can join forces to bid for capital of culture but not to save the library service. We know from Surrey and where I am in Oxfordshire that because of the costs, handing the libraries to the "Big SocietyTM"  doesn't really save any money, if any. So why are the three authorities not working together to pool the back office costs? I grew up in the area and had to listen to the Labour Councils take credit for everything they could and if anything unpopular has to be done blame the Tories. The same happens in the Shires but they started blaming the last Labour government for everything once their party go into government.

I have put in a splurge of FOI's to Gateshead and Newcastle to see how much the libraries are costing to support in such a tiny geographical area. You never know, the FOI's might come back and show that their entire back office and service support costs are already pooled and the closing of libraries and handing them to volunteers is the last resort, not the first.

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