Saturday, 17 February 2018

Outsourcing Fundamentalism, Hasn't Herts heard of Carillion? and SCL/Taskforce backed vol-led 'libraries' conference comes to Sheffield.

Northamptonshire, along with Barnet one of the Tory outsourcing flagships, has had a Section 114 order slapped on it which basically means it can't spend any more money on public services except apparently on crucial statutory services which apparently doesn't include libraries! A Tory council collapsing under Tory austerity cuts, who would have thunk it!!
Oh and I forgot to mention that the ex-CEO of Northamptonshire CC is Dr Paul Blantern who just happens also to be the ex-Chair of the government's Libraries Taskforce. Paul is a bit of an outsourcing fundamentalist, who planned to shrink his council workforce from 4000 to 150 core staff by 2020 by outsourcing services to 4 'Next Generation' social enterprises. His council had previously moved libraries into a 'Wellbeing Community Interest Company' but also more recently had planned to cut/close libraries and hand over many of them to volunteers. When I asked him at a Speak up for Libraries conference a few years ago whether he thought that an outsourcing fundamentalist was a good choice to chair a Taskforce on public libraries he just laughed it off, hope he's stopped laughing although the £100k pay off he received from Northamptonshire might help lighten his mood.

Hertfordshire are 'consulting' on their libraries again and in the spirit of the government's 'Digital by Default' agenda misspelled 'consultation' in the link meaning that you got 'page not found' when you clicked on it, it has I'm glad to report now been fixed. Oh and the 'consultation' asks folks whether they want their libraries to be privatised or cut/closed and apparently doesn't mention that libraries are a statutory service, wonder why?

The 'Community Managed Libraries Peer Network', "a network of peers from the full spectrum of community managed libraries from independently funded libraries to those who receive local authority support" is holding its first national conference in Sheffield on 20/3/18. The network is funded by 'Power to Change', "an independent charitable trust that supports and develops community businesses in England", it's so independent that it lists DCLG & 'Big Society Capital' as partners! Basically it's just another front for the government's 'Localism' agenda, an ideological agenda that seeks to offload public services to suspect SocEnts and volunteers.
The network is not only supported by Locality (the armed wing of the DCLG and the Localism movement) and the Upper Norwood Library Trust but also by the Society of Chief Librarians (SCL) and the Libraries Taskforce! Some see the involvement of the SCL and Taskforce as a pragmatic move but i think it's absolutely shameful and indicative of the ethical void at the upper echelons of our library establishment.
Oh and holding their first conference in Sheffield is a little ironic considering that volunteer-led 'libraries' there have seen a huge drop in usage!


Sunday, 21 January 2018

Carillion and LS&S; the dangers of library privatisation.



Carillion

It's amazing how many people didn't know that Carillion ran 4 library services in London.
In 2012 Harrow, Ealing, Hounslow and Croydon outsourced their library services to John Laing Integrated Services who then sold the contract on to Carillion in 2013. In 2017 Hounslow terminated its contract with Carillion and in the last few days Croydon followed suit after news that the firm had been liquidated, but even before the final crash came about news was coming out of the borough that Carillion were doing a bad job and couldn't even pay their newspapers bills!
Harrow and Ealing have yet to play their hands both claiming that it would be too costly to take the services back in-house and look likely to re-outsource with GLL being mentioned in some quarters.
I've been keeping tabs on Carillion's library venture since 2013 and have consistently over this time heard from good sources that they were making a real hash of things. Right from the start Unison, the main union representing library workers, experienced barriers in negotiating recognition agreements which really isn't that surprising considering Carillion's involvement in a major blacklisting scandal. If you wanted tangible proof of their mismanagement you only had to visit Croydon Central Library, it was a mess with half-empty and untidy shelves, one of the worst children's libraries you've ever seen and a visible lack of staff or even self-service kiosks that worked, it was a disgrace.
Anyway Carillion are no more and i live in hope that this has acted as a wake up call to councils, especially Labour ones, who are considering privatising such a crucial statutory service.

LS&S (formerly LSSI)

The US private library firm LS&S have recently lost a contract in Santa Clarita, California. Staffing shortages, unfilled vacancies, low morale and a drastic drop in usage have been cited as the reasons for termination of the contract. Now this didn't come as a surprise to my comrade Lori Rivas and other campaigners/users in Santa Clarita who not only put up an epic battle against privatisation in the first place but have also been raising issues and concerns since the contract was signed. Solidarity and congratulations to Lori et al.
Last week, after a law suit and community protests, LS&S won the contract to run libraries in nearby Escondido. Campaigners have vowed to keep fighting and let's hope they do.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/jan/17/london-libraries-assess-impact-of-carillion-collapse
http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/communities/north-county/sd-no-library-outsourcing-20180110-story.html
http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/communities/north-county/sd-no-library-opposition-20180116-story.html