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Agenda item

RESPONSE TO CALL-IN: LIBRARY LOCAL IMPROVEMENT PROGRAMME

Decision:

1.            The Committee noted the report and welcomed:

1.1       The deferral of the proposals for the Hale End library.

1.2       The engagement with users and non- users of Hale End library in the meantime; and

1.3       Noted that no action will be taken to progress the proposals for Hale End library for up to 12 months to enable that engagement to take place.

Accordingly the Committee confirmed the Cabinet decision on this basis and asked the Chair to write to the Leader accordingly.

2.         The Committee also:

2.1       Requested that the Audit and Governance Committee consider carrying out a review of the call-in procedure.

2.2       Recorded Councillor Fitzgerald’s request (made under paragraph 5.3 of the current Overview and Scrutiny procedure rules) that an item be placed on the relevant scrutiny committee agenda for an update on the Hale End library proposals before any further report is put to Cabinet.

Minutes:

The Committee noted the request for call-in at Appendix 2 to the report, although in view of the Cabinet’s decision on 12 July 2016 to extend the consultation period and to reserve the right to take the final decision, some Members questioned the need for the call-in. However, there remained some concern about discrepancies in the report to Cabinet, particularly with regard to accessibility, and the level of public interest in the proposal was acknowledged.  Members welcomed the greater level of detail provided.

Councillor Rackham said that though sometimes changes are necessary, the accessibility and popularity of the current library were good enough reasons for the library to remain where it was.  Councillor Moss felt that the initial proposal should have been consulted on more widely before going to Cabinet.  He also questioned the financial basis of any proposed move to the Tesco site and its sustainability.

Councillor Naheed Asghar, Junior Lead Member, introduced the Library Local officer team, and welcomed the cabinet decision to pause for further consultation with the community as a whole, while acknowledging the need to progress proposals on the other three Library Local sites.

The Strategic Director for Neighbourhoods and Commercial Services said she wrote the cabinet report and took responsibility for any factual errors, for which she apologised.  These had been corrected in advance of the Cabinet meeting.  She stood by the proposals and said that consultation formed an integral part of the process that would take the views of Councillors and residents seriously, and was not due to the call-in.

Having heard representations, the Committee proceeded to consider the matter.  Councillor Fitzgerald felt that any decision of the Committee had been pre-empted by a letter from the Leader of the Council to say the matter would be deferred.  She also asked whether negotiations for the use of a vacant site near Tesco would continue.  Ms Moloney stressed that this was a proposal and a costed option, but that nothing was ruled in or ruled out.  However, the process of engagement was hampered by the notion that the community would be losing its library, which was not the case, although the location had become a sticking point.  She added that the negotiations had now ended.

Councillor Fitzgerald was not entirely satisfied with the responses.  It was therefore clarified that changes involving Hale End Library would come before the Committee before a decision was made, and that the Director of Asset Management would write to her concerning the negotiations with Tesco.

Despite continued pressure on government finances, the Vice-Chair underlined the importance of having a good library at the heart of a sustainable community.

Councillor Mitchell welcomed deferral and expressed interest in plans to increase library use in Hale End and Highams Park.

Councillor Douglas acknowledged that in any process, there had to be an initial proposal.  He was delighted that so many people had attended the meeting.  However, in light of the call-in of the cabinet decision to consult, as Chair of the Audit and Governance Committee, he was bound to question the process on this occasion, and suggested that it should be reviewed. 

The Chair allowed Councillor Siggers to speak.  He said that after several drafts, the original recommendation on 12 July 2016 asked the Cabinet to agree the proposals and that the inclusion of consultation had come later.  It was therefore incorrect to suggest that the call-in procedure had been misused.  He referred to a library closure in his ward, and another community library subject to a lease, and warned that this did not represent a sustainable future.

Ms Moloney agreed that the report had been subject to a great deal of consideration, and wished it to be recorded that the option to consult was in the report to Cabinet, and that is what they agreed. 

Decision

a)    The Committee noted the report and:

 

              i.        welcomed the deferral of the proposals for the Hale End library;

            ii.        welcomed the engagement with users and non-users of Hale End library in the meantime; and

           iii.        noted that no action would be taken to progress the proposals for Hale End library for up to 12 months to enable that engagement to take place.

 

b)    The Committee confirmed the Cabinet decision on this basis and asked the Chair to write to the Leader accordingly.

 

c)    The Committee also:

 

              i.        requested thatthe Audit and Governance Committee consider carrying out a review of the call-in procedure; and

            ii.        recorded Councillor Fitzgerald’s request (made under paragraph 5.3 of the current Overview and Scrutiny procedure rules) that an item be placed on the relevant scrutiny committee agenda for an update on the Hale End library proposals before any further report is put to Cabinet.

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