Bid for call-in on county council’s controversial library cuts

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A cross party group of councillors is making an eleventh hour appeal to a county council scrutiny meeting next week in a bid to “call in” controversial decisions to close numerous council buildings.

1. Why has a special meeting of Lancashire County Council’s Scrutiny Committee been called on Thursday September 22?

Councillors are using their democratic right to try to “call in” a decision they disagree with - namely the cabinet’s decision last Thursday to close more than a hundred buildings to save money. The closures include libraries and numerous Children’s and Young People’s Centres. But to have it reconsidered they needed to have the support of at least five councillors and then must persuade the scrutiny committee to demand a review or “call in”.

2. Who requested the call in?

A cross party group of councillors comprising four Conservatives, two Labour and one Green councillor - Tory opposition group leader Coun Geoff Driver, his deputy Coun Albert Atkinson and Tories Coun Michael Green and Susie Charles, Green Councillor Gina Dowding and Labour councillors Kim Snape and Bev Murray.

3,What exactly do they want?

It varies - the Tories want the property strategy decision reconsidered, while two Labour councillors want the decision to close Adlington library looked at again and Green councillor Gina Dowding is known to be particularly unhappy about the closure of a children’s centre in Lancaster and is concerned about the impact of cuts on deprived communities.

The formal notification of meeting reveals just how concerned all the councillors are about how the closure decisions were reached. The request for the special meeting claims both the consultation and the Cabinet decision were based on “incorrect financial information” and the decisions “do not meet the Council’s own priorities to support the needs of the residents of Lancashire, particularly the more deprived communities.”

A second request by Coun Kim Snape and supported by Coun Bev Murray reveals concerns that the criteria were not properly applied for Adlington Library and questions about the library decision have gone unanswered. It concludes: “We are left with no alternative but to call the decision in to get answers in regard to the above for the 10,000 or so residents who reside in the catchment area of Adlington Library.”

4.Can anyone attend the meeting?

Yes, it’s an open meeting at 3pm at County Hall, off Fishergate, in Preston. Members of the public cannot speak, but the councillors listed above will be given the chance to address the committee.

5. What happens next?

If the Scrutiny Committe agrees the cabinet will be asked to reconsider its decision. However the cabinet is not obliged to change its mind.