Bristol Councillors “not consulted” on Library cut proposals

Councillors were not consulted on the latest round of library cut proposals, claims the chair of a scrutiny group.

Liberal Democrat councillor and Neighbourhood Scrutiny Commission chair Anthony Negus says Bristol councillorswere not made aware of the solutions proposed to potential library cuts in their wards, and as such the changes are hampered by a lack of local knowledge.

He is now planning an ‘informal’ scrutiny meeting in an attempt to work out how the commission can react to the consultation and hold the council to account.

Mr Negus said: “The consultation has already been launched, so we need to talk about how to respond to it and what to go to the cabinet with.

“People are going to suffer in the long run – both in terms of their finances and their wellbeing – and ultimately I don’t think the way the cabinet has gone about this consultation is fair.”

Launched on Tuesday, the ‘Your Neighbourhood’ consultation is asking Bristol residents to choose between several proposed changes to five key areas including libraries, public toilets, adult dementia and disability services, neighbourhood groups and lollipop people.

The council need to save £33million from its budget this financial year, and it is anticipated that the savings generated from the current consultation will amount to £4.7million.

And while the Cotham councillor accepts that budget cuts need to be made, he objects to the way decisions on the potential cuts have been made.

Mr Negus said: “From a personal point of view this council is beginning act as you might expect from a majority Labour council.

“For example this last-minute proposal to close 17 library buildings – just five per cent of the total cost of the service – was not presented for scrutiny by councillors, despite requests.

“This consultation will now not be about a range of options for coping with austerity but instead presents cherry-picked preferences.

“It is just doing things and making decisions without discussion with councillors – it is taking everything in to the centre.”

Mr Negus also believes the cabinet has not looked at the longer term costs the cuts might present to the council.

“The proposals put forward don’t consider the wider implications of the cut,” he said.

“I mean clearly it is unfair to expect the council to foresee every potential outcome, but there are some very obvious impacts we can expect from the proposed cuts which could end up costing the council more overall.”

And this is not the first time fears have been raised over the potential for long term losses as a result of short term cuts.

In May the council approved a 75per cent cut in the tree maintenance budget despite protests the authority would be liable for greater compensation payments if uncared for branches were to fall on people or their property.

As a result of this perceived lack of communication the Lib Dem fears that the council is suffering from a regressive form of leadership.

“There is no clear visionary decision planning here,” he said.

“We are in danger of going back to how the council was run 30 years ago, it is monolithic.

“George Ferguson was the one that started the rot, which has been taken up by the current administration and it is unacceptable.”

 

This article originally appeared in The Bristol Post

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