Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Who's in charge of the deck chairs?

I stuck a question in on the Arts Council’s live chat with Alan Davey that took place at lunchtime today. I wanted to understand from him what ACE understands to mean when E-Vaizey said they are:  “responsible for superintending and promoting the library service”. Below is my initial question and Alan’s response:
Rubymalvolio: Ed Vaizey has said in the house of commons that ACE is: "responsible for superintending and promoting the library service" How is this even possible with only five library relationship managers?

Alan Davey: To Rubymalvolio: I think this must have been a slip of the tongue. We are very clear that we do not have a superintending role and nor did the MLA before us. We are, however, about promoting the importance of libraries and their development. We will maintain a presence in all parts of the country despire our current cuts. That's important.

I wanted to post a follow up and the moderator very kindly told me that it wouldn’t get in by the end so I should put my follow up in an email. I did and here is what I sent, it includes correspondence between the MLA and the tireless campaigner Shirley Burnham and an email exchange between me and the DCMS:

Hi Alan,
There is a lot of confusion on the role of the Arts Council and libraries. I know the minister has the statutory responsibility under the libraries act but it appears that the head of the MLA did believe that they had some responsibility to superintend (or provide oversight) and clearly the minister Ed Vaizey believes this too.  One of my fellow campaigners had an email from Roy Clare CBE in 2010 that implied this:
Hello, Shirley, yes happy for you to circulate.
Wirral’s key features were a “perfect storm” of the following factors:
#. Stated intention for large numbers of closures
#. Driven by asset-review, not social outcomes
#. Ineffective consultation with public (and staff) *
#. Potential of library services not well recognised *
#.No workable strategy for service improvement *
#. ‘Good Practice’ elsewhere not being considered
It was the combination that led us to consider appealing to Secretary of State.
In our view one or two of these factors on their own would not be sufficient grounds to cry ‘foul’. Each is important, but those marked * are fundamental.
Hope that helps?
Roy Clare CBE
CEO, Museums, Libraries and Archives Council”
I also asked the DCMS what Vaizey meant when he said the line  "A £6 million fund has been provided by the Arts Council, which is now responsible for superintending and promoting the library service"
“Dear Mr Craig,
Thank you for your email of 14 November to the Department about the supervision of library services. I have been asked to reply.The Minister’s comment about the Arts Council was reference to the responsibilities they assumed in October 2011 for the development of public libraries.As I mentioned in my letter of 13 November, The Secretary of State, the Rt Hon Maria Miller MP, has a duty under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 to superintend the delivery of library services by local authorities and to ensure that public library authorities in England provide a ‘comprehensive and efficient’ service in accordance with their statutory duties under the 1964 Act”

Which doesn't say it was a slip of the tongue it actually backs it up and the minister and the DCMS believe ACE is responsible for superintending and promoting the library service. As you are no doubt aware up and down the land there is massive anger at the cuts to libraries, even your own department has been cut hard and there is no way 5 library relationship managers could possibly supervise the 151 library authorities on top of the envisioning the future of the libraries program and the 6 million in arts grants. I hope you can give some clarity on this as it seems that libraries are being slashed and there is confusion about who is overseeing them.
With kind regards,

To which Alan very kindly replied very promptly a few hours later:
Dear Mr Craig,
Thank you for your email.
As I mentioned today in my live chat, it is not the Arts Council’s role to superintend libraries and report back to the DCMS on whether a library service meets the statutory requirements of the 1964 Act or not. As your letter from the DCMS made clear, the Arts Council assumed responsibility for the development of public libraries in October 2011, and the superintending of whether a public library service is deemed ‘comprehensive and efficient’ lies with the Secretary of State, the Rt Hon Maria Miller.
I also mentioned in my live chat that the MLA did not have responsibility of superintending the 1964 Act. This is strictly true, although MLA library staff did analyse local, regional and national library data collated by CIPFA, and feedback this information to DCMS. We were very clear when we assumed responsibility for libraries that reviewing library performances would not be a role that we would be undertaking – and that the definition of a ‘comprehensive and efficient’ public library service should be defined at a local level, and be superintended by the Secretary of State.
I hope this clears up any confusion you may have on this matter. If you would like any further information on the Arts Council’s role concerning libraries, please check the Arts Council website here.

Which is very clear, ACE have NO responsibility to superintend and promote the library service, they are not monitoring libraries adhere to their duties under the act it’s down to Maria Miller, Ed Vaizey and the 4.5 staff they have at the DCMS.

It isn’t possible for 4.5 people to monitor the 151 library authorities, no way. Ed trying to take credit for keeping the 1964 museum and libraries act is just smoke and mirrors, it’s meaningless if the act isn’t enforced. The iceberg approaches, there isn’t even enough people to move the deck chairs never mind dodge the iceberg and the captain has locked himself in his cabin with his Xbox.

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