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'Gagged' staff speak out as D-day for Lincolnshire libraries looms

By Lincolnshire Echo  |  Posted: December 14, 2013

'Gagged' staff  speak out as D-day for Lincolnshire libraries looms
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Workers facing redundancy following the decision to close 30 Lincolnshire libraries claim they were "gagged" from speaking out against the controversial plan.

Lincolnshire County Council library staff, already facing a bleak festive period, have also been warned their sickness and disciplinary records could cost them a post within the new streamlined service.

Around 100 staff are expected to lose their jobs because of Lincolnshire County Council's decision to transfer 30 libraries to volunteer-run 'community hubs'.

The decision, rubber stamped by the nine-strong executive committee last week, has already attracted widespread criticism from anti-closure campaigners.

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Library staff were effectively silenced during the period leading up to the implementation of the scheme.

But a number of workers have now broken ranks to reveal some of the heavy-handed tactics used by the authority.

They have all chosen to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals – including sabotaging their chances of being considered for another post.

One library whistleblower said: "Some of us have known of the impending disaster for over 18 months and, while being kept informed by our service bosses of what was happening, we have also received regular emails advising us against being seen to be in opposition to the plans as being a breach of our terms and conditions which could lead to disciplinary action.

"As both disciplinary action and time off sick are being used as part of the re-selection decision, this has caused us concern.

"I have seen colleagues dragging themselves in to work, and risking infecting the rest of us with whatever they are suffering with, because each day off sick counts as 10 points (out of a possible 200) off their re-employment score.

"It's not simply a case of if a library worker might face redundancy – all frontline libraries staff, static or mobile, will lose their jobs.

"This applies to the people who run the counter in a local library and support the mobile drivers, and site supervisors – the people responsible for the day-to-day running of each group of libraries.

"All of these people now have to apply for the much reduced number of jobs and won't be interviewed until January."

There are 299 posts in the structure that will come to an end in May.

A total of 59 posts are vacant while 138 posts will be available under the new library regime.

There is another 74 transitional posts for the threatened 30 libraries.

Campaigners against the closures say the executive committee ignored the views of Lincolnshire people and dismissed the findings of an independent consultation report that cost taxpayers £96,000.

Anti-closure campaigner Ros Jackson said: "These insider views demonstrate how calculating the executive have been about the process. They have undermined the free speech of library staff who will be hit hard by these cuts."

Jonathan Platt, head of libraries and heritage, denied they had prevented staff from speaking out but confirmed sickness absence and disciplinary action were used in the re-selection process but defended the moves.

Mr Platt said: "Sickness absence and disciplinary action are two factors taken into account during the reselection process. This has been county council policy in all restructures since 2011.

"We could not stop staff from publicly speaking out against the proposals, if they chose to do so, but we did remind them of the council's code of conduct, which offers guidance on the behaviour expected of all council employees."

The council's code of conduct forbids staff to talk to the media unless permission has been granted.

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17 comments

  • mervhob  |  December 17 2013, 11:49PM

    The letter sent out by Jonathan Platt, detailing the councils decision over the libraries closures, states that an extra four managers will be taken on to manage the 'volunteers'. This is not on - there are already sufficient staff in Leisure and Libraries group able to manage that small extra commitment and in the spirit of 'we are all in this together' they should cheerfully take on this extra burden. Otherwise, we, the long suffering council tax payers of Lincolnshire will have to ask that a full audit is made of the said department, in order to ascertain whether such additional expenditure is really necessary or whether it is yet another blatant example of work avoidance.

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  • mervhob  |  December 17 2013, 11:02AM

    Armyoldsweat - reading your list of the workers forced out of employment over the last 30 years it is blatantly obvious that this has hammered the productivity of the economy and led to an inability to support public services. Having worked in the private sector over that period I can ensure you that the disappearance of this productivity had little to do with the front line workforce - it was mainly due to third rate poorly trained managers, administrative workers that couldn't be asked to make that little extra effort, business systems that were slow, inefficient and all about work avoidance. And so called 'professionals' that wanted vast fees for little more effort than getting out of bed in the morning! We need the business equivalent of 'Occams Razor', to be applied to the throats of the business community who have been 'needlessly multiplying expenses' while adding nothing significant in terms of value to the economy. Once these immense layers of bureaucracy have been return to their proper position of the Victorian six shilling clerk - then we can have the productivity to be both competitive and pay the necessary taxes.

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  • mervhob  |  December 16 2013, 11:49PM

    So to save a paltry £2M we must lose a service that has served us well for 150 years. By fostering the desire for self improvement and education, libraries helped to raise us to the Workshop of the World. This was an escape path from the world of rapacious landlords, thieving lawyers, crooked shopkeepers and slave-driving employers. The application of science and technology has raised the the human race to a level of prosperity undreamt of in the last 2000 years. The aforementioned parties contributed nothing to this process and still contribute nothing today. Therefore it is only right that in a properly organized society they should shoulder a fair proportion of the burden in terms of costs. We need to pay for essential services and this is best managed through taxation. Taxes on property ownership based on the area owned and the declared market value is a good start. Secondly, the so called professions, in a time of austerity have year on year, pushed up their fees and emoluments while demonstrating no improvement in productivity - they whine that their costs have gone up while refusing to demonstrate how these 'costs' are constituted. It cannot be due to the wages paid to their employees as these have been static for the last decade. Fees and emoluments for professional services should be frozen and increased costs should be borne by the vendors of such services. Libraries were the springboard to a huge increase in the productivity of this country - now certain political forces wish to push us back to the dark ages of the 18th century, where a covetous elite stole what they liked when they liked with no fear of retribution - let them all eat cake!

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  • gsx1100  |  December 16 2013, 8:20PM

    The point I was trying to make, Pete67, is that time moves on. Our library used to be busy, but got to the point where you only saw the odd person in there. It eventually closed. Books are, sadly, going out of fashion with Kindle and many younger people preferring gaming to reading. Don't get me wrong, I like libraries if only for the fact that they are one of only two places where my wife won't shout at me.

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  • Pete67  |  December 16 2013, 10:26AM

    gsx1100 - - - I've had the Internet since about '98 or '99, but I've still had to use my local library for many things. There's a lot on the Internet, but a lot of things you can only find in a library. What also about the people who don't have the Internet as there are plenty of people who don't. If you haven't noticed most TV programs now seem to think that everyone's on 'facebook'. I for one aren't, and have no inclination join. The main thing about libraries are being 'local'. If I'm up West Yorkshire I can find out things about the Town I'm in, but I suppose I'd have to order something about Lincolnshire (and vice versa). Many of the very small local books are not on the Internet and it's unlikely they ever will be. Also at the library I found some videos to watch on Lincoln, that I've never seen in the video rental/retail shops (that are disappearing fast).

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  • snoddy  |  December 16 2013, 9:31AM

    All this agro just to save £2.000,000. I could maybe understand it all if the figure was £200,000,000.

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  • Armyoldsweat  |  December 15 2013, 8:28PM

    Despite our differences 'Arthrys' we do at least appear to share a political view. However, as a member of the Lincolnshire Carers Group caring for my elderly disabled wife I am more aware than most of the excellent work undertaken by the Social Services and others at County level. That said, so-called sick days taken by local authority salaried staff has been endemic for forty years or more across the nation and it's not surprising things are being tightened up in line with the private sector. Long overdue in my opinion. Incidentally, if you are not self -employed or running a small business ask anyone who is the last time they took a sick-day off?

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  • gsx1100  |  December 15 2013, 6:12PM

    In all fairness, Pete67, you relied on the library services because the all powerful internet wasn't available at your fingertips. I understand what you're saying, but I can research more on my computer in a hour than you could all day in a library. I don't agree with the way LCC has gone about certain issues, but with the advancement of the internet on mobile phones etc., the closures were going to come sooner or later.

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  • Pete67  |  December 15 2013, 1:00PM

    Though not originally from Lincolnshire I found out all about the area I live in at the library, and it's all been very interesting. If the libraries had closed before I came here, and volunteers had no real idea how to run one all that knowledge would be lost. These days even some local people have asked me about the place, and luckily it's usually something I've read in one of the local library books. I may never have even heard of Bruce Barrymore Halfpenny's 'Ghost Stations' if it had not been for my local library (where I came across it). I've also rented films from there to watch that you could never find at most outlets, and are almost impossible to find a seller (or they're overly expensive). All in all I think the small amount that will be saved on closing the libraries would be totally detrimental to many Lincolnshire people. The travelling library though it has many uses it can never give you the time to really search, and you may not even know what you are searching for till you find it.

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  • Arthrys  |  December 15 2013, 10:48AM

    Armyoldsweat...priority is very low at the moment? So education is a low priority at the moment? Giving people access to information and the internet is low at the moment? Giving people who cannot access services and books because of lack of money or being able to get to a major town is a low priority at the moment? No, I suspect you have swallowed the bunkum that all public sector jobs are non-jobs without giving any thought to the people that rely on the services that they provide whether they are patients in the NHS, kids at school, vulnerable people relying on social care or in this case people who get great value from professional library services. These are just such a time when relatively cheap services such as this are most needed. The Council are cutting these back not because they think they are not needed but because they don't think there will be a big outcry - precisely because of attitudes like yours. And whether you think librarians do a valuable service or not, no one should have to work in such an intimidating atmosphere that they are scared of taking a day off or speaking out of turn - which I expect go against council policy over bullying at work. Finally there is money available but central government don't feel that spending it on local services is as big a priority as large grandiose projects that will get their pictures in the news and our local Tories don't want to do anything to upset Cameron and co,

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