Tonight at cabinet the council is talking about the libraries again. The Labour cabinet has signed off a draft libraries strategy that will see the four threatened libraries reprieved for the time being at least. Cllr Millican, the leader of the opposition, asked that the threatened libraries be specifically protected in the strategy. The Labour finance spokesman, Cllr Johnson, urged the cabinet not to include any such protection in the strategy and the paper was agreed without a definitive statement protecting all of the libraries from closure.
The Labour group have been dreaming about Cllr Millican. Cllr Reeves, the Labour whip, told the meeting that:
I have a dream of Cllr Millican being the chair of the friends of Northfield library.
Shortly after that the leader, Cllr Bell said;
I have a vision of Cllr Millican chairing a Northfield library trust.
Strangely Bell and Reeves are not dreaming about their future involvement in Greenford and Northolt libraries respectively. Neither have they worked out a common language to describe the future of libraries in the borough.
The draft strategy talks about spending the Â£570K receipt from the sale of the Birth of Eve painting on the libraries strategy. I am not sure that this is what the public was expecting. The money will be spent on a raft of sexy technology such as wi-fi, Apple Macs and Sony e-Book Readers. All of this kit will be junk in five years time. There is not is not a single word in the report about any user demand for these facilities and no hint of a business case. The Southall car park approach again on a smaller scale. Let’s do something flashy, don’t worry about whether it is good value.
The strategy talks about saving Â£53K by taking 25 library opening hours and justifies this by pointing out that 32% of consultation respondents agreed that hours should be curtailed. The report failed to mention that 52% disagreed.
Over a year into the new administration and all we have on libraries is a hugely flawed draft strategy. Labour are floundering, not ruling.