Welcome to December’s newsletter!
Wishing you a very Happy New Year from The Library Campaign! See the end of this newsletter for our own new year’s resolutions for 2023…
Baroness Sanderson’s review
In our very first newsletter, we mentioned that Baroness Sanderson was to conduct a review of public library strategy and said we had written to her asking to be involved. We have now had a helpful reply and we hope to start a proper dialogue in the New Year where we aim to encourage library users being involved in future policy creation.
ACE grants
ACE (Arts Council England) has sparked plenty of debate with its latest round of allocations (2023-26). No fewer than 990 organisations share £446m. Some get more than before, some get less – or nothing; 276 have never had a grant before, 114 are no longer on the list. The overall aim, says ACE, is to spread the money wider (ie outside London and the south), and to bring “more creativity and culture to more people in more places”.
In this complicated context, libraries have done comparatively well. We say “comparatively”… the overall allocation has risen dramatically, from £1.5m. But it’s still just £4.1m. Libraries Connected has so far done a huge amount with its grant as an “Investment Principle Support Organisation”. That continues, at £509,000 for two years. Intriguingly, it could gain a third year of funding if it moves its office outside London.Meanwhile there’s new status (and money) as a “National Portfolio Organisation” for the excellent ASCEL (Association of Senior Children’s and Education Librarians). Plus NPO money for 16 library services, seen as leaders in the field.Is yours on the list? Barking & Dagenham, Barnsley, Cambridge, Nottingham, East Riding, York, Gloucestershire, Hull, Kent, Libraries Unlimited (Devon), Merton, Sefton, South Tyneside, St Helens, Suffolk and Warwickshire.Big NPO grants also go to two organisations which are seen as being about reading rather than libraries as such – Booktrust and The Reading Agency. Both have wonderful programmes administered through libraries, including Bookstart (free books for pre-schoolers) and the Summer Reading Challenge. Altogether, ACE reckons it has given £16,027,669 to assorted “literature” bodies.As libraries spend their limited resources so very efficiently, it’s good to see them getting a bit more straw to spin into gold…
We can expect bad news when the (very late) financial settlement finally arrives, and councils have had time to set their budgets for certain. So far, libraries’ splendid performance during lockdown has proved their worth as never before. They have been fairly well protected. But now, we have left common sense territory. Austerity, inflation and the energy price explosion have seen to that. An early sign is that Derby City is proposing to cut over £100,000 from books and other “resources”, plus a £55,000 cut by ending all funding and support to its fleet of “Community Managed Libraries” (i.e. usually volunteer run), carrying with it another £107,000 cut in the staff that served CMLs. All this, it chirps, will enable “wider community opportunities, locality working and asset efficiencies to be explored”. If these were not forthcoming in the heady days when these CMLs were first set up to “save libraries”, we wonder if they will pop up now. The figures also show just how much it has cost one council to support these supposed money-savers. The real cost and viability of CMLs has never been properly researched. We may be about to find out more now…
Local Government financial settlement
Whitehall published, later than usual, its proposals for local government finance for 2023/24. The plan is to increase central government funding by CPI which is welcome but in the view of most commentators we have seen, will not be enough. This is in part because central government grant is now a minor part of what local authorities have to play with- most of it comes from council tax and business rates. Nonetheless the Local Government Chronicle reports that only a minority of councils are planning to raise Council tax by the maximum 3%.A usually well informed observer in troubled Croydon suggests that after a 10 day (!) Christmas and New Year closure of its libraries, some may not reopen at all. And equally troubled Thurrock has matched them by issuing a S114 (bankruptcy) notice which does not bode well. There is already talk of selling off the Tameside Theatre complex, which houses the Central library. (Russell Brand is on the case!)
Libraries Connected strategy
Libraries connected have presented a grand strategic plan spanning from 2023 to 2027 and we have been keeping up with their updates attending their online presentations and discussions. We will keep you posted but in the meantime you can review their strategic plan here in pdf format where their vision is outlined for pushing home the fact that library services should be at the heart of communities and ways to ensure that happens. Their detailed action plans include the creation of a public libraries data and evidence observatory which could be used when future policy decisions from government are being decided regarding public libraries.
and finally… New year’s resolutions for 2023 – tell us yours and here are ours
When we realised that this will be read on Year’s Eve / Day we thought we should put in a New Year’s resolution. Here it is: we will hold an open meeting (i.e. you don’t have to be a Campaign member to attend) on 25 March 2023. This will explore your ideas on the future of public libraries, so we can represent your views to the Sanderson review. We plan to invite an informed speaker to start this off.It will be in London but we are planning to offer online participation for those who cannot or would rather not travel. This will be linked to the Annual General Meeting of the campaign, for members only. We want your views for this too!We also plan to try and extend our social media reach. We are already on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and may venture into Tiktok. If you are active on any of these please do follow us.There will be a new issue of the Campaigner magazine in the next few months and we will continue to send out these newsletters.What are you and your Friends / Campaign group planning for 2023? Tell us and we may feature it in a newsletter or the magazine…
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