Cllr Richard Kemp CBE,
Church Ward Liberal Democrats,
16, Dovedale Road,
Liverpool L18 1DW;
Cllr Joe Anderson,
Liverpool City Council,
6th January 2012
Firstly, Happy New Year!
I understand from David Bartlett that you will be writing to me following my comments about the lack of imagination used in the library report which you considered this morning. I thought I would save you the trouble by writing to you myself!
Before touching on libraries however perhaps you would use you undoubted influence within the Labour party to thank three Labour members for me.
The first is Jim Murphy, the Shadow Secretary of State for Defence. This morning Jim agreed £5 billion of defence cuts. He is thus, the first Labour Minister to actually come up with a definitive view of the cuts and publicly accept their inevitability.
The second is Lord Glassman, who is apparently a senior adviser to your Party Leader. He made clear yesterday that Labour has no credible alternative economic policies. Borrowing more to deal with a problem caused by borrowing too much lacks any serious credibility.
Thirdly Cllr Roz Gladden. At the special meeting of the Adult Services Committee Roz thanks the Lib Dems for our responsible behaviour in not playing politics with the cuts that Labour had to make. She is right – we did not seek to use this as a political issue.
This sums up the difference between us and indicates why we cannot work with Labour because you are ‘deficit deniers’. Large cuts in budgets would have been made whoever won the election in May 2010. Jim has admitted it but not Ed! In Liverpool Labour continue to deny the fact that we are in a mess largely but not exclusively caused by the last Labour Government which allowed spending to outstrip income and who failed to regulate the banks. Even Ed Balls admits this but not Anderson and Brant.
Let me then turn to Libraries. I thought the report that you have agreed today was dismal. In August last year the LGA and the Government produced a report “Future Libraries Programme” which reported back on 10 pilots undertaken by councils of all political persuasions looking at how to modernise libraries and make them more efficient. This report is crammed with ideas – why not pop over to Manchester and see what Sir Richard Leese is up to because it is very good indeed, at least in this field.
So let me ask you a number of questions.
- Have you future proofed today’s proposals in light of the electronic revolution taking place? More and more people, not just young people but across all ages, no longer buy books. Instead they use Kindle and other electronic devices. What do you think will be the take up the devices in 10 years and what effects will that have on book buying and lending? Incidentally, whilst I don’t advocate this, the library budget could have bought about 26,000 electronic books from WH Smith which have free access to more than 1,000,000 book titles.
- The council is not the only provider of libraries in the City. We also have:
1 College with a number of campuses
30+ secondary schools throughout the City
Many of these facilities are only used for part of the year. Would you please indicate what discussions have taken place with these institutions to examine a wider community use especially for young people at school and college who use the library more as a quiet place to study than a place to acquire books?
- Key users of library services are the elderly. They like the library not only as a centre for books but as a ‘community’ centre in the widest sense of the term. There are already many community centres in the city. In addition there are many sheltered blocks run by housing associations which have little used community facilities. Would you please indicate to me how many of these organisations have been approached and what their response has been to the use of their premises as a neighbour reading facility?
- The other key set of users are parents of young children who wish to acquaint their children with the spoken word. It seems to me that the opportunity has been lost to link up ‘toddler’ provision with the financial problems of Sure Starts. Most of these Sure Starts are part of junior and infant schools which also have library provision. What review of sure start buildings was made with a view to effecting appropriate merger of facilities? What discussion have taken place with school governing bodies to look at out of school use of these types of facility?
I am not an expert in this field but these are just of the few of the ideas that have come to me from reading the booklet I referred to above and thinking about applying successful models elsewhere to the problems and opportunities of Liverpool. If I can read this publication why can no-one else in Liverpool?
I hope you find these thoughts useful and look forward to receiving answers to my questions in good time for my colleague on the relevant select committee to use before the meeting.
Cllr Richard Kemp CBE,
Deputy Leader, Liverpool Liberal Democrats