‘Call in’ review fixed for One Stop/Library decision

Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Policy Development & Scrutiny Panel for Communities, Transport & Environment will be reviewing the recent decision made by Cabinet of the approach to community libraries and on the consultation outcomes and proposals for a modern library in Bath.

This will be discussed at the next Panel meeting on the 13th November which starts at 4:30pm, in the Guildhall Bath.

Bath Guildhall
Bath Guildhall

This item of the meeting (known as a ‘Call-In’) will consider the process leading to the Cabinet decisions, taken on the 11TH October 2017.

This cross-party panel will consider the reasons for the decisions on two Call-In requests received:

  1. On the consultation outcomes and proposals for a modern library in Bath received on the 13th November (Liberal Democrats)
  2. On the community approach to libraries  (1) Labour, received on the 13th November (2) Liberal Democrats, received on the 17thNovember

The panel will first consider the Call-In following a decision by the Cabinet to move the One Stop Shop to The Podium in Bath.

bath library
Bath Central Library

The Call-In follows a decision by the Cabinet where it was agreed to:-

  • Note the outcome of the consultation.
  • Approve the Podium as the chosen site for the central Bath integrated Library & One Stop Shop.
  • Fully approve capital spending of £330K for the next phase of the project.
  • Agree that the next phase will involve the appointment of architects and a positive programme of user and partner engagement to enable detailed designs and costings.
  • Note that once detailed costings have been produced, and final designs established, the total requirement for capital funding will be confirmed and relevant approvals obtained.

Some of the reasons given for the call-in include:

  1. The need for public scrutiny of the Council’s expenditure on this project to date – no breakdown of the expenditure costs has been published – and of the proposed savings related to the investment.
  2. No open, public consultation has taken place on the issue of whether co-location of Bath Library and the One Stop Shop is desirable or accepted by service users.
  3. No evidence has been presented about the practicality of co-locating services at The Podium, nor whether this would benefit or disadvantage service users.
  4. It is unclear whether the project is deliverable or sustainable given the issues around The Podium lease arrangements, and the Police/Shopmobility lease arrangements at Lewis House, which have not been resolved.
  5. bath central library
    Bath Central Library

During the same meeting, the Panel will also address the decision regarding the community approach to libraries by picking up the points raised from both call in submissions received.

The Call-In follows a decision by the Cabinet to adopt a new approach to delivering community-run library services in Bath and North East Somerset as part of the overall modern libraries programme. And also approve the release of Capital in the sum of £275,000 to invest in and support our new approach to community-run libraries.

Subsequently, on the 13th November, a call-in notice was received, signed by 11 Councillors, objecting to this decision. A second call-in notice was also received on the 17th November, signed by 13 Councillors formally asked for the Cabinet Member’s decision to be reviewed – or Called-In.

Some of the reasons given for the call-in include:

  1. The report fails to identify the impact on current mobile library users once this service ceases.
  2. Inadequate consideration has been given to how sustainable it is to expect local groups to take on the running of libraries and how this would be funded.
  3. The consultation on this approach has been limited and the results of this consultation have not been published
  4. The Equalities Impact Assessment referred to as a background paper does not appear to have been published.
  5. The decision has been taken without any open, public consultation having been carried out.
  6. No financial breakdown has been provided to decision-makers regarding the proposed savings and no detail is offered of how the community model may work.
  7. Information about the ownership of branch library buildings is not included in the report.

At the public meeting, the Scrutiny Panel will receive a statement from Cllr Karen Warrington (Conservative, Clutton), Cabinet Member for Transformation and Customer Services, and from Cllr Joe Rayment (Labour, Twerton) on behalf of councillors who requested the first Call-In and from Cllr Richard Samuel (Liberal Democrats, Walcot) on behalf of councillors who called in the second decision.

Members of the public wishing to speak at the meeting should contact Democratic Services on 01225 394458 by 5pm on 8th November.

Note:  There will be a public speaking slot at the beginning of the meeting and there will also be another opportunity later on. The Bath one-stop shop item will be addressed first the community library Approach will not start before 6:00.

Full details and agenda papers are available from the Council’s website (www.bathnes.gov.uk) in the “Council and Democracy” section.