|Campaigners offer way forward in volunteer-run libraries dispute|
|Friday, 13 July 2012 11:38|
Warlingham Library is one of ten libraries affected by Surrey County Council's controversial plans to introduce volunteers to run the libraries. The High Court ruled the plans 'unlawful' and Lee Godfrey of Surrey Libraries Action Movement (SLAM) has issued the following press release about a possible solution to the situation:
Surrey Libraries Action Movement (SLAM) has offered a solution to resolve the 18 month long stand-off over Surrey County Council's plans to introduce volunteer-run libraries in ten communities in Surrey. SLAM has sent a letter to Council leader David Hodge suggesting a compromise. SLAM says that paid staff and the library management system should remain in place for stability and sustainability but that volunteers could assist in the delivery of services and be able to have a greater say in what additional services are offered.
The letter is sent prior to a Council Cabinet meeting on the 24th July during which the fate of the ten libraries will be decided. The Council has until now refused to amend the volunteer-run library policy despite a recent admission that plans to replace paid staff with volunteers will save no money and despite the High Court ruling the plans "unlawful".
Mike Alsop, Chair of SLAM, said: "We don't want to be arguing over these plans in another year's time so it seems that a compromise is in order. We accept that volunteers can bring benefits to a library and can have a say in what services are delivered, but in return we are asking SCC to recognise the benefits that permanent, paid staff and the Library Management System bring in terms of stability, sustainability and supporting vulnerable groups. We believe a combination of paid staff and volunteers is the best and most cost-effective way forward.
The solution we offer will cost no more than the Council's existing plans but offers the right balance between stability and community engagement. The Council has yet to review its policy since the High Court ruled it 'unlawful' so this also offers an opportunity for the Council to show that it has listened and learned and is prepared to be reasonable."
The final judgement in the High Court Case said that SCC acted "unlawfully'"in not showing "due regard'"to its public sector equalities duty and in making a decision that was "so unreasonable that no other reasonable authority would have taken it." The final Order in the High Court case binds Surrey County Council to comply with the judgement.