Letters to Lincolnshire Echo on library closures

We realise there were some people who wanted services to remain as they are, but with £2 million less to spend that just wasn’t possible. — Nick Worth

Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation. — Walter Cronkite

We measure the value of a civilized society by the number of libraries it opens, not the number it closes down. — Philip Pullman

Three letters to the Lincolnshire Echo on library closures:

Dear Editor

I was horrified to read your story dated 4 June detailing the £41 million underspend by Lincolnshire County Council in the last financial year.

As a campaigner with Save Lincolnshire Libraries I have, over the last eighteen months had my eyes opened to the flagrant arrogance and ignorance of the decision-making group within County Offices, but this latest story takes the barrel, the biscuit and the mug to dunk it in!

If the Lincolnshire people needed evidence of their representatives working against, not for their communities they need look no further. Cllr Hill in particular has been startlingly out of touch with the electorate since the beginning of the libraries campaign. First signing a petition against his own cuts, and more recently claiming that Lincolnshire residents (whom he thinks of in the guise of ‘the great unwashed’ it seems) deserve no legal recourse against his party’s farcical ‘consultation’ unless they dig deep into their own pockets. I wonder: who does Cllr Hill think has paid for the consultation process, the council’s legal expenses thus far, and now the Save Lincolnshire Libraries legal fund – the Leprechaun at the end of that rainbow he’s sitting on, perhaps?

For the leader of the county council to now so flippantly tell the Echo that “careful financial management” has ensured that he and his colleagues can squirrel away £41 million of ratepayers’ money against the proverbial rainy day is nothing short of a direct kick in the stomach to those librarians, campaigners and communities who have paid for that “financial management” plan with their livelihoods, their man hours, their blood, sweat and tears, and their libraries. Out of touch does not even come close.

To the people of Lincolnshire I say this: it IS raining in Lincolnshire, right now. It is raining lies, pomposity and smug, self-serving, money-grabbing elitism disguised as community-mindedness. This is our rainy day, and it is up to us to poke the county council with our umbrellas and remind them that they work for OUR interest, and not the interest they’ll receive on that £41 million they have in the bank.

Yours sincerely,

Leah Warriner-Wood (North Hykeham)

Dear Editor

I have read the piece about the County Council having an underspend of £41 million for the last financial year. This, of course, was on top of an over £20 million underspend the year before. That was announced at the time of the proposals being published to dismember the library service. At that time, opposition councillors asked that some of that money could go into the budget to offset the mammoth 32% reduction in library services. Of course, this was turned down, as it did not fit with the alliance’s plans, which they had already decided upon.

As we all know, the Council decided to go ahead with its proposals even after a consultation that was almost totally against what they had put forward. Furthermore, just to show how right they were, the Executive Committee introduced interim arrangements from this May reducing library opening hours. They have already made 170 members of staff redundant. Now they face the Judicial Review in July, with a decision probably due in September. Why could not the Councillors have thought ahead and put aside some of this underspend in December, when they made the fateful decision about the library service? I realise some of this underspend might be “one-off” money, which can only be spent once. Members at the top of the Council chain would have known when they made their decision in December that there was likely to be an underspend. If they didn’t, they are not doing their job of monitoring the budget. This budget, by the way, is the money we all put in as taxpayers. Isn’t it about time our County Council listened and tried to be forward looking enough to grasp that this would have been an excellent opportunity to keep staff for the first 6 months of the new financial year at least, so that the outcome of the Judicial Review would be known. It is obviously too much to ask. This administration is well passed its sell by date.

Yours sincerely,
Maurice Nauta (Nettleham)

Dear Editor

There is one good thing that has resulted from the news that, following their £50m underspend of 2013, Lincolnshire County Council has underspent for this year by another £40m; we now know that the Council’s story of having a desperate need to save £2m by closing libraries, and that it is being done only under duress, must be purely fictional. In which case the only motivation we can attribute to LCC is that the executive really believes that public access to the services, professional staff and resources of fully funded libraries is a useless and expendable waste of money. I would have liked to say that this is an example of cultural indifference worthy of Genghis Khan, were it not that even Genghis Khan knew the value of reading and writing, encouraged the adoption of an alphabet and made literacy freely available for his people.

Yours sincerely

Liz Waterland, The Friends of Deeping Library

We have councillors who are unfit for public office, who have nothing but arrogant contempt for the local communities they supposedly represent, who stuck two fingers up to the local community when they awarded themselves an increase in their already overgenerous allowances.

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