Lincolnshire heritage sites included in libraries outsourcing contract

Heritage sites across Lincolnshire have been included in an outsourcing contract notice, as part of Lincolnshire County Council’s plans to make £120 million of annual cuts.

The contract, published on April 16, kickstarts the Lincolnshire County Council’s search for an external organisation to potentially deliver library services on its behalf.

The authority is currently undertaking a procurement process, following an approach by Greenwich Leisure Ltd, a not-for-profit organisation interested in running local libraries.

The competitive procurement process also includes heritage site services which are currently operated by the council, although no decision has been taken on their future.

The council says the heritage services have been included in the contract to save from “unnecessarily duplicating” work. A decision on the future of the heritage services will not be made before 2016.

The heritage service includes the following:

  • Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Visitor Centre
  • Lincoln Castle
  • The Museum of Lincolnshire Life
  • Gainsborough Old Hall
  • The Collection: Art and Archaeology in Lincolnshire
  • Discover Stamford
  • Tennyson Research Centre
  • Aviation Heritage Lincolnshire
  • windmills at Alford, Burgh-le-Marsh, Heckington and Lincoln,
  • www.lincstothepast.com
  • Lincolnshire Archives

Tony McGinty from Lincolnshire County Council said: “The council is currently considering how best to make the £120 million of annual savings required as a result of reduced funding and rising demand for services.

“That means looking at how all our services are delivered, including those relating to culture and heritage.

“One thing we may want to consider at some point in the future is whether these services could potentially be delivered by someone else on our behalf. And by mentioning them in this contract notice we simply leave that door open.

“If we do eventually decide to go down that route, this will avoid unnecessarily duplicating work, enable us to explore with bidders potential alternative ways of delivering these services and give us the flexibility to extend the contract if the proposals have merit.

“However, I must stress that at this stage, no decisions have been taken, and none will be taken until we have consulted with stakeholders.

“Identifying the best approach will require extensive preparatory work, and it is unlikely that a decision on the best way forward for these services will be taken before 2016.”

Save Lincolnshire Libraries campaigners outside the County Council offices. Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Save Lincolnshire Libraries campaigners outside the County Council offices. Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

In February 2015, the council approved plans to cut the number of libraries in the county to 15 from 45, and to put the service out to tender.

The re-submitted proposals are similar in content to the ones agreed by the council in December 2013, which were quashed by a judicial review.

The 30 libraries cut will be turned into ‘community hubs’, and would receive ongoing professional support.

However, criticisms have been raised about the suitability of voluntary organisations running the libraries after a number of groups withdrew their proposals.

Tony McGinty added: “Although we potentially face a second legal challenge, we intend to continue working on the procurement of the new-look service.

“The need to make substantial savings within the service remains, and it’s important we do what we can to achieve this. And we’re confident that, under our proposals, we can do this in a way that both saves money and creates a library service that is fit for the 21st century.”

Strong support for the anti-library cuts march in Lincoln on September 21, 2013. Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Strong support for the anti-library cuts march in Lincoln on September 21, 2013. Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

As previously reported, the Save Lincolnshire Libraries campaign group is seeking a second judicial review of the council’s library cuts decision.

Campaigner and former head teacher Julie Harrison issued a later statement on the latest activities by the Save Lincolnshire Libraries campaign group:

“Our position is that we are exploring the possibility of launching further legal action. However we are exploring not only action against the council but also against the Department for Culture, Media, and Sport who seem blind to the effect of cuts by councils crippled by central government cuts.

“DCMS’s decision to accept the complaint by Maurice Nauta but then be minded not to set up an enquiry is a disgrace. We are submitting further evidence and considering our options.”