March 10, 2013
Cuts - what cuts?
Perkins attention was drawn to the endless debate about cuts in the public library service by someone (Minister, Ed Vaizey, actually) who used the expression "£820m was invested in the (English) public library service last year" . In fact that was indeed the net revenue expenditure allocated by English councils to run public libraries. In addition they allocated £140m for capital expenditure on libraries, so I think it would be fair to say that the amount invested was actually £960m
In that way the 'amount invested' , according to CIPFA, in the public library service in England in the past five years has been
Which seems to amount to a nick - rather than a cut. And it does seem a bit hard to argue that devastating cuts from central Government have forced councils to slash their library budgets - they haven't
On the other hand if libraries are being closed and book funds being cut, it does seem more sensible to ask whether councils are giving proper priority to front line services in their normal management of public libraries. One wonders whether they are managing their overhead costs properly That is where , it seems to me, the figures suggest the problem lies
At the town hall door
Perhaps that is what Ed Vaizey meant to say - or should have said
Posted by Perkins at March 10, 2013 12:34 PM
It does seem odd that a small state, right wing party in Government seems to not bat a eyelid when councils are protecting the hugely bloated service support costs and the management and professional spending and going straight to the low paid library managers and assistants to make cuts. If I were a cynical man (which I am) I would suspect the councils and officers are deliberately pursuing a scorched earth policy on libraries to try and put political pressure on the government to prevent cuts to councils. It certainly seems to be the case in Newcastle with the scaremongering going on. I think John Redwood, not normally a man I agree with on anything, hit the nail on the head, he called it the "parade of the bleeding stumps" a ploy by councils to try and shock the government into providing more money, it certainly seems to be the line the LGA are taking. If this really is the case then shame on them for using libraries and other vital services as a political football, they are hurting peoples live chances to save their own skins.
Posted by: Trevor Craig at March 10, 2013 2:36 PM
I first started following the library situation in 1998 when a new labour govenment was offering a bright new dawn. At that time looking back over the previous years of Tory administration what you are describing seems exactly to have been the tactic operated
Attempts by central Government to make sense of local Government expenditure had been handled as if they were a PR subject to be spun against the Government - the senior officers and managers were deeply experienced at self protection - and that is the game they are playing now
There is also a conspiracy between departmental civil servants and council officers to promote mutual protection - it is not hard to miss
Posted by: perkins at March 10, 2013 3:37 PM
In fact the figures cited do represent a fairly large cut, because they don't take into account the rate of inflation, which has the effect of making the amount allocated in 2012 worth 13.23% less than it would have been in 2007.
This decrease in 'investment' would be exacerbated by the increasing proportion clawed back by local government for so-called 'service' charges.
Posted by: Martyn at March 10, 2013 4:13 PM
Martyn.. I don't accept that argument about inflation - 80% of the cost of the library service is of council employees and salary inflation ought to be nil among them. Of the other 20% at least half are books and other materials and I don't believe there has been price inflation in those sectors either.
There is inflation in the economy - but only a tiny amount in respect of operating public libraries
If the only 'cuts' that have been made are by failing to keep up with inflationary public sector wages - then no wonder the Government is accused of not tackling the deficit
Posted by: perkins at March 10, 2013 6:50 PM