September 3, 2012
Lest we get too excited: The 'Tri-borough' circus
There are many solutions offered to the perceived problems of the public library service: trusts, charities, consortia, volunteers, colocations, closures, task forces, outsourcing etc etc - and all of them come and go under a variety of haloes
(In fact there is only one proper solution which is to do four things - improve book collections, open longer hours, smarten up the buildings (and equipment) and encourage the staff to be helpful and friendly.
However there is one currently in vogue which merits attention. This is the so-called Triborough amalgamation of services between the central London boroughs of Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea and Hammersmith and Fulham.
Readers in country areas will gasp at these figures
Westminster has 12 libraries and a gross budget of £10.5m. Kensington and Chelsea have 6 libraries and a budget of £6.6m (honestly!) and Hammersmith and Fulham have 7 libraries and a budget of £5.1m. That makes a total of £22.2m to run 25 libraries... an average of about £900k per library.. about 3 times the national average If you don't know, out of these three only Kensington and Chelsea has a rather dismal - but large- central library worth the name. The rest of the libraries are extremely average for England - the normal mixture of dirt, booklessness and light bulbs not working
The great boast is that by merging the three the councils will save £1.1m ... no claims of improvement, carpet cleaning or improving the book collections. But what happened to the idea that libraries are supposed to be saving 25% of their cost over three years (which would be a saving of £5m at least)
Just for the record the overhead recharge paid by the residents of the boroughs of these library services for amenities provided by their respective councils are Westminster - £2.8m; Kensington and Chelsea £1.3m; Hammersmith and Fulham £0.7m - a total overhead cost of £4.8m.
And the last recorded book funds for the three were Westminster £0.6m; Kensington and Chelsea £0.3m (honestly) and Hammersmith and Fulham -£0.2m - (seriously)
So to save only £1.1m - and not to be boasting of significant improvements is really a rather poor performance and not one to be smiling at conferences about at all ... it is pathetic ...
It isn't enough to say "At least we are doing something" - it just isn't
Probably the most appalling thing about these figures is that in the whole of the UK only Perkins the cat knows what they are. So when the highly paid officials of London Government quote their performance, they simply have absolutely no idea whatsoever what their performance is.
If one of them stood up and said "We will save £1.1m" and someone in the audience cried out "out of how much?" - they wouldn't know the answer! Even now someone, somewhere is trying to work out where these figures come from, so they can deny them - but they just don't know where to look
Posted by Perkins at September 3, 2012 1:16 PM
That is shockingly poor, I though Oxfordshire were bad with their 3.2 million service support costs for a 7.9 million library service. Be interesting to how they spin these cipfa reports on each authority that Vaizey promised.
Posted by: Trevor Craig at September 4, 2012 7:53 PM
All of this is true. The Kensington & Chelsea service is so bad on new book purchases, I ended up getting into the habit of making the effort to go to the Barbican and use the City of London service. It's bit of a trek, however, there are loads of items on the shelf with 2012 publication dates.
Posted by: Kensington & Chelsea Library User at September 4, 2012 11:49 PM