I sent my last blog post about the Newcastle and Gateshead situations to the leaders of Newcastle and Gateshead Council. I didn't expect a reply from either but did get a reply from the office of Mick Henry from Gateshead. It contained a lot of the factual information about what is happening and a thank you for getting in touch and my comments had been added to the consultation. What I found surprising is that they have discussed joint sharing but they won't because:
"As part of a service review, opportunities for shared services were considered and detailed discussions held with officers from Newcastle City Council. A range of service areas were considered for sharing. It was concluded that the areas of service that could be considered for sharing were not feasible owing to the very limited capacity that now exists in these areas across both Councils. "
Which if you have limited capacity that is exactly the reason you pool resources not a reason not to do it! And anyway, both within the library service and the service support/ other expenditure there is still plenty of duplication and expensive back office support going on as I wrote about here.
Politics as always buggers everything up though, why cut up your little empire when you can blame the other side and cut services to make a point. It more clear than ever that the Tories are closing libraries by stealth by handing them to volunteers and Labour are openly closing them but blaming the evil coalition for making them do something they claim they don't want to do. And in some cases it looks like certain politicians are using the cuts to give themselves a national platform, no doubt with a eye on a future safe seat.
The Newcastle 90 million figure is a nonsense and has been clearly torn apart by Lee Hall and his brilliant analysis of the figures put up by Newcastle:
I think its time for Mick Henry and Nick Forbes to go back to their officers tell them to merge the management and back office spending of the two library services and that no library should have its hours or low paid library managers/assistants cut otherwise the tail is wagging the dog. Libraries more than pay for themselves in hundreds of ways, sadly very few councillors understand this and its not something that appears in their budgets but you cut the libraries and watch literacy decrease, watch the elderly need extra care because they have lost their one lifeline, watch the job seekers fail to get re-employed because they have no access to a computer or books on how to find work or re skill. None of that appears on the budget sheet for the financial year so to these people it doesn't matter.