If you thought an ‘undistributed middle’ had something to do with eating too much Christmas pud, think again. In Suffolk its the administration’s pitiful excuse for reducing our our loved, valued, and needed library services.
SCC’s consultation paper : Have your say on the future of Suffolk’s libraries was launched last week. The first page of this document sets the framework for you ‘having your say’. It is titled: Services to be delivered differently in the future‘ and the first paragraph is a whole lot of guff about iPods, e-books and Twitter – just to reinforce the fact that we no longer really need books on bookshelves. And just as well…
Why? The document tells us that:
“With major changes affecting the country’s economy, and government’s aim to cut the national budget deficit over the coming years, Suffolk County Council must reduce its funding to libraries by at least 30% over three years.”
Eh? Did I miss something? This is a perfect example of a logical fallacy : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallacy_of_the_undistributed_middle
Another example of this flaw in argument can be seen in the following:
“Dollar bills are green, trees are green, so money must grow on trees.”
Yes, Mr Pembroke, there are major changes in the country’s economy.
Yes, the government wants to cut the national budget deficit over three years.
THIS DOES NOT MEAN THAT THERE IS ANY NEED OR REQUIREMENT FOR ‘SCC TO REDUCE ITS FUNDING TO LIBRARIES BY AT LEAST 30% OVER THREE YEARS’!
(And did you know that The Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 makes the provision of ‘a comprehensive and efficient’ public library service a statutory requirement?)
As usual, when justifying their divestments and cuts, SCC points to cuts in central government grants. Again, this document fails to mention that the government grant which is being cut (by 26% over 4 years, not 30% over 3) forms only part of SCC’s income. The rest of which is staying the same, or rising. In other words, SCC does not have to impose of cuts to the Suffolk library service of over 30% over 3 years at all!
Rather, it means is that SCC sees libraries as a ‘soft’ target. In fact, SCC has taken three-quarters of a million pounds away from library funding this year to pay for a hole in care finances already. Yet there has been no proposed reduction whatsoever to Suffolk’s multi-million pound road maintenance budget. Lorries before learning!
We all know that some cuts, some pain IS going to be unavoidable – but there are different ways of targeting them. For example, you can discover what your residents want.
Norfolk is – like Suffolk – run by a Tory administration. It is – like Suffolk – rural, and thinly populated in many places. So how is it managing the problems of less funding? Has Norfolk told people that its too expensive to run frontline services? No! Instead of insisting on a mad, undemocratic, ideologically motivated New Strategic Direction , and deciding on outcomes before consultation with its population, Norfolk has held a ‘Big Conversation’ – and established what its residents’ priorities are! After all it is their council tax and their services!
Big Conversations? You might object to the terminology – you can’t fault the way their minds were working. You can read more about Norfolk’s so much more ‘grown up’ and democratic process here
Suffolk’s embarrassingly autocratic library ‘consultation’ will continue until 30 April. As ever, I urge you to have your say. I warn you – just as in the case of Suffolk’s Care Homes – ‘having your say’ on the future of Suffolk’s libraries doesn’t mean the administration is allowing you any opportunity to say their idea is bad, and you want no part of it.
Oh no – all this consultation gives you is a chance to explain your idea for running your divested library. For example, Question 4 is: “How will your idea or interest generate changes or significant efficiencies in the way the library operates to reduce what the county council pays by a minimum of 30%”
Am I the only person who thinks this is frankly ludicrous when we remember the ‘New Strategic Direction’ is the brainchild of an exceptionally highly paid Chief Executive, who only recently flatly refused to countenance the idea of a voluntary 10% pay cut for herself? http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-suffolk-12232070
SCC consultation document writers may be bad with words but they really are expert at the “when did you stop beating your wife”-type question.
Woodbridge library is ‘safe’: that is, it will remain one of the 15 ‘County Libraries‘ free from divestment – unless someone really really wants to take it over. However the other 29 (now designated Community) libraries, including Wickham Market, Framlingham, Debenham, Kesgrave, Leiston, Oulton Broad and Southwold are up for divestment – that is, being taken over by community groups. At the bottom of this page is a little notice in quiet print:
“If the response to this consultation is disappointing, and the county council does not receive viable proposals and ideas from people, groups, businesses and other interested parties for ways to run community libraries, we propose that funding will stop from 2012.
Not that your arms are being twisted!
You may – whether or not your own library is on the list – feel like filling in the consultation document. You may, on the other hand feel like filling in one of the e-petitions that are proliferating on the Council’s brand spanking new petition site:
You might also write to your local paper, councillor or MP. Or all of these. Good luck!