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Library cuts ‘unlawful’ says former Lincolnshire council director

A former director at Lincolnshire County Council claims that the plans to cut library services in the county are “unlawful” and has asked for government intervention.

Ex-Assistant Director at Lincolnshire County Council Maurice Nauta wrote to The Rt. Hon Maria Miller MP, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to formally request that she order an urgent inquiry into the library service cuts in Lincolnshire.

Maurice Nauta was also a senior manager in the library service between 1988 to 2002.

The executive at Lincolnshire County Council approved plans last year to save £1.7 million annually by turning many static libraries to community ones.

Under the proposals, 30 libraries will become community-run libraries, plus in some areas community hubs will be created where no library resources presently exist. Over 100 jobs would be lost in the process.

The 15 core libraries, including Lincoln Central, will continue to be run by the authority.

An inquiry from the Secretary of State takes a much deeper investigation than a judicial review, but could lead to the library changes being overturned.

At present, there are proceedings for a judicial review against the plans, brought by Lincoln resident Simon Draper.

Running a library service for residents is a statutory requirement on county councils, and Lincolnshire County Council have already noted that the community-run libraries will be “non-statutory”.

In his letter, Maurice Nauta claims that the changes are unlawful, as they would put the remaining level of library services in Lincolnshire below those provided in other rural counties.

He has asked the Secretary of State to examine the efficiency aspect of the plans too due to lack of static libraries in rural areas.

In a statement, he said: “I would like to make clear that my decision to write to the Secretary of State at The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is not the result of any political agenda.

“Throughout my long career in library administration (in Lincolnshire and elsewhere) I worked comfortably with individuals and councils of all parties with the aim of providing both a high quality service and the best possible value for money to ratepayers.

“I am appalled at the way this whole affair has been handled.

“Decisions have been made before proper debate and consultation; promises to protect frontline services have been broken; the views of most people consulted have been ignored; alternative proposals have been ignored or dealt with high-handedly; local communities are being forced to run their local libraries on a “take it or lose it” basis, and yet what is being put in its place can be shown to be less efficient and not comprehensive.”

He also asked Lincolnshire residents to have their say on the cut services by contacting their local MP.

“If you feel that the library service in the county will no longer be comprehensive, as Parliament requires it must be, then tell your MP and ask that they take it up with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport,” he advised.

A copy of Maurice Nauta’s open letter is available on the Save Lincolnshire Libraries website in full.