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Libraries trust is a ‘backward step’

PETER Cronin-Hill is right to worry about the future of Kent’s libraries (letters, January 14). A consultation has started about transferring all of Kent’s 99 libraries to a trust. You can get details of what is being proposed at Whitstable library or online at www.kent.gov.uk. Please make sure that you use the form available to tell the county council what you think of its proposal.

The council says it’s a “modernisation”, but my research has shown that many trusts elsewhere in England have led to library cuts, closures and over-use of volunteer staff. That sounds like a backward step to me. My big worry is that a trust will be unaccountable to the people of Kent — if we complain to our county councillors about a library matter they will just say they can’t do anything about it. Mike Hill, the councillor responsible for libraries, has already stated that it will be up to the trust to decide whether or not to keep all Kent’s libraries open!

I am also worried that a trust will no longer be covered by Freedom of Information so it will be even harder for residents to fmd out how decisions have been made about our libraries. And if the trust fails, then where will we be? Of course, coundillors also say it’s about money. Well, the library service is almost the last thing we all share across Kent and we have free access to the same service. We ought to be able to maintain these centres for learning and enjoyment that enhance community well-being. It should be a priority, too, for our elected representatives to make the libraries even better for future generations. None of the councillors said they were going to give away our libraries in their manifestos. Now they are asking us to have faith in an unknown, unelected trust.

I feel very uneasy about that. If you do, please make sure you say that in your response to the consultation. Finally, National Libraries Day is on Saturday, February 7. Please join a gathering outside Whitstable library at 1O.3Oam. We can celebrate our library discuss KCC’s proposal with other residents and encourage more local people to respond to the consultation.

Richard Stainton

Herne Bay Times, January 21st 2015

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