Here’s the letter I wrote to the local papers in Camden this week:
I am obviously saddened to hear that members of CPLUG are legally challenging Camden’s library policy.
Everyone is aware that we are facing very difficult financial constraints, not just this year but for the next six years.
As I have explained, we are dealing with a £80 – £100 million shortfall in the council’s funding due to cuts from national government until 2014 and a further £40-£50million for the three years afterwards. This has resulted in extremely tough decisions in all areas of public services.
Camden conducted an enormous public consultation with over 6000 people. We decided to try the idea of ‘community libraries’ which was suggested by library users themselves. I have been delighted by the zeal and resilience of Camden people who have said that they will work with me to keep their beloved libraries operating.
Let me be clear, this is not a vague ‘Big Society’ idea, the council plans to put a lot of resources for transitional support and helping these libraries extend their partnerships with other community bodies. There have been some really exciting ideas so far, and I believe we will succeed in preserving services if everyone works together.
A judicial review will not only cost the council and the applicants an enormous sum of money, it will also delay the complex process that we are currently dealing with and threaten some really innovative ideas.
The amount this judicial review could cost the council, in direct costs and delays to our reforms, could buy us 35,000 books for our libraries, or fund staff.
Camden’s Education Commission is currently looking at our ‘family’ of schools, and many organisations connected with education and informal learning, such as Children’s centres, are discussing how we can all work together to promote learning. As they haven’t already, I would appeal to CPLUG to engage in this process and work with everyone else, and not stand alone.
Cabinet member for Culture