March 10, 2012
Public Library Budgets
Shock, horror, scandal.. library budgets to be slashed and burned.
Actually last year the public library budget in England went down by three percent.
It may go down by more in the next set of figures, but somehow, I doubt if it will really be nuked in the way we have all come to expect. Local councils simply can't do things like that to themselves - they don't know how to.
No one ever actually looks at the real figures - which is why the library service is such a hopeless mess. Someone influential told me last week that 'Librarians don't have management in their DNA' - and he was right.
I bet (£5) that the Arts Council - who have now had responsibility for libraries for more than a year - haven't got a sensible set of figures about the service upon which to base anything they might contemplate doing. Nobody ever does.
However, if anyone were to look at the expenditure on public libraries in the past ten years, they would find that two things stand out
The book funds have been allowed to decline from 12% of spend to 6.5% - which is dreadful and explains why people are reading less in libraries
And the charges on the library service that pay for council overhead costs (not library overhead costs) have gone up from 8% to 14% - and that is truly truly shocking.
It means that in every budget round collectively, officials have failed to notice that the service is drained of funds - not becasuse there is less tax money available to spend - but because the council central costs are out of control and rising disproportionately
The problem of the library service doesn't really lie with Ed Vaizey and the ministry - it lies in the management of them by local councils. That's what the figures say, if only someone would look at them
That doesn't mean the minister is innocent - it just tells him what he has to do- he has to use the figures. (Public Libraries Act 1964... "The minister shall obtain such information as he needs to superintend the library service")
Posted by Perkins at March 10, 2012 9:15 AM
Not sure Arts Council has had responsibility for libraries for over a year? Isn't it actually five months?
Posted by: The Hedgehog Police at March 19, 2012 9:30 AM
The announcement that the Arts Council would take over responsibility for public library care was made on 9 Dec 2010. That must, one hopes have been made following some proposal that this was the right thing to do - in which the Arts Council played a part .
I remember talk of a 'smooth transition' - are you suggesting the Arts Council took no reponsbility for that transition and the responsibilities that came with it?
Responsibility in public office is a heavy burden -- Mr Hedgehog- whoever you are
Posted by: perkins at March 19, 2012 10:17 PM
You are reading an awful lot into the raising of a mere point of fact
Posted by: The Hedgehog Police at March 21, 2012 7:41 PM
Well, Mr Hedgehog, who prefers to stay anonymous- I would say that, given what has happenened to the public library service in the past two years, it's about time someone put 'an awful lot' into the responsibility for its care.
I suppose you work in some official office - perhaps even worked in the old MLA or the Arts Council itself.
Posted by: perkins at March 21, 2012 10:31 PM