Letters to the Hackney Gazette

Hackney Gazette, Thursday June 23, 2011

Lead Letter: Libraries consultation seemed like a charade to me

“I am writing to highlight the appalling mismanagement of the public consultation on the future of the Hackney Libraries, held at Hackney Central Library on June 13.

There was a marked lack of publicity about the consulatation and many of those attending made it clear they were only there because they’d been fortunate enough to be present at Hackney Central Library on other business, and were only made aware of the event through librarian aqaintances.

When pressed, Ted Rogers (Head of Hackney Libraries) stated that it had been advertised only in the council’s newspaper, Hackney today.

Most of the repeatedly expressed concerns of attendees – namely 25 per cent cuts to frontline library staff and the use of volunteers to replace paid staff, etc – were routinely evaded with the claim these issues were seperate to the public consultation.

Members of the public were consistently referred to the consultation questionairre to voice there concerns. However, the questionaire is extremely limited, with questions that seemed shaped to support predetermined answers and with only a tiny box to add any further comments.

Most outrageously of all the meeting was held without any minute taking. It seemed to me this consultation ws little more than a rubber stamp for a predetermined reorganisation of Hackney Libraries. Hackney residents concerned about cuts to staff, opening hours and events should make their concerns direstly to the head of libraries, the mayor and the council as well as pressing for an extension of the consulation period so a more genuine attempt to involve service users in changes can be facilitated.”

Dominic Mealy, Well Street, Hackney.

 

Response from Councillor McShane, Hackney Gazette, Thursday June 30, 2011

“No changes until consultation ends

I write in response to the lead letter Libraries Consultation Seemed Like a Charade to me (Gazette last week).

Whether you borrow a book or use study space, libraries play an imporatant part in everyday life for people in Hackney.

The council understands this, which is why we have made a commitment to keep all eight libraries open, maintain some of the longest opening hours in the country and to keep providing events for children and older people in every library.

Later this year we are opening a new CLR James Dalston library and rolling out wi-fi to every library building.

However, cuts imposed by central government mean we have no choice but to make savings to ensure the long term sustainability of our library service.

The unions and staff have been asked for their views on proposals for the future of the service.

These proposals detail a new structure with some different and new jobs, but we have been absolutly clear that volunteers will not take the place of the paid staff.

I’m confident that these proposed changes will help create a service that delivers the high standards that residents want and deserve while keeping costs down.

To date more than 400 forms have been sent through the informal drop-in sessions like the one at Central Library more forms have been completed and any specific issues have been noted.

I personally took away a number of issues when I attended the drop-in session at Stamford hill library last week.

Information about the consultation and drop-in sessions has been readily available in Hackney today, on the councils website and in all libraries and some other council buildings.

No decisions or changes will be made until we have analysed all the responses to the consultation.”

Cllr jonathon McShane, Cabinet Member for Health Social Care and Culture

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