Tuesday, 2 October 2012

The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few

When Dave intervened and told Keith to use "Big Society" volunteers, neither had thought it through. The Steve Hilton back of a fag packet flagship policy, which no-one has ever been able to explain and didn't get the Tories a mandate from the electorate doesn't actually work as a cost saving exercise for libraries. Surrey CC have admitted this and I believe it to be the case in Oxfordshire. Neither does it work as a way of creating a sustainable library service. The poor staff at OCC went on a mad scramble to try and throw some data together to try and decide on a method of which libraries would have the honour of joining the "Big Society". Sadly for the Tories, 16 out of the 21 that were being cut (joining the "Big Society")  were in Tory divisions. Even now after trying for six months the council has failed to recruit the volunteer coordinator that they say is crucial to the scheme. Because of Dave's intervention, all the other alternatives were ignored. They went to Hillingdon to see what they were doing but didn't speak a word. They haven't even looked into shared library services with another authority so I have stuck in a few FOI requests to see what would work.

Holton where the library service is based is for OCC is 17.5 miles away from the Bucks County Council in Aylesbury. This is where the library service is based for Bucks.

Looking at the management and professional data and the service support for Bucks (they included all staff so I excluded library manager roles) They spend about 4.1 million in the back office supporting their library service.

Amazingly in Oxfordshire County Council, their service support costs have gone from 3.1 million in 10/11 to 4.4 in 11/12, this combined with the management and professional costs of about 1.4 million gives OCC a back office total of around 4.5 million. When I spoke at the scrutiny committee last year the officer and the tory members questioned my definition of back office. In simple terms its everyone that isn't customer facing. which I think is a fair description of the service support and management and professional sections of a library service spend. For fairness here is what OCC's definition of the service support costs are:

Property recharges, directorate recharges, human resources, finance, ICT, Legal and other.

For the full breakdown of what these service support costs are incurred by you can see their response to one of my early posts:


Needless to say, none of these people doing these tasks that cost 4.4 million work in a customer facing role, neither do the management and professional or service support so I think the back office label is fair.  Its also work pointing out that according to their own CIPFA returns their staff reorganisation has only led to the back office in the library service going down by 2.9 fte. They are savaging 21 of their 43 libraries but only 2.9fte will be going/gone in the back office.

Hardly savage cuts to protect the front line
I don't want to see anyone lose their job but when you are spending 4.5 million to support a library service and 17 miles down the road another council is spending 4.1 to do the same thing you have to question why are they not sharing these costs? Looking at this on a map makes it even more stark that they have to look here for savings with other councils:

Rural commuters would love a daily drive to work this short
The 313k savings (not the true figure, they are ignoring the costs) could easily be found by looking at sharing some of the more expensive roles. In fact OCC already have a shared service agreement with Hampshire CC over 90 miles away so it can be done. To force volunteers to run the libraries yet to sustain two management structures and back office costs is madness, only in the public sector would this happen. The Tories have to ignore Davids "big society" intervention and think again, otherwise the message given to voters is vote Lib Dem and Labour and your libraries in Oxfordshire will be safe.

The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.


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