Thursday, 26 May 2011


So the 26th March 2011 was a day that showed politicians that apathy was a sign of its own failure to engage the public rather than an indication that the executive had a free hand and could do whatever it wants without recourse. Since then, outwardly it would seem that all is now quiet on the libraries front with regards to cuts and closures...  unfortunately this would be a flawed perception.

With a planned 40% reduction in Westminster's Library stock budget, a reduction in staffing hours by 14 full time staff members for September, the closure of St James' and Charing cross library as well as the Sale of the Old Marylebone town hall and Old Marylebone Library plus, the ongoing Tri-borough project; as well as more planned cuts for 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. It would appear that both local and national politicians have merely been reminded to keep up the spin while those in the know keep up the fight.

It is no wonder Labour councillor Paul Dimoldenberg has called for an inquiry into Westminster Council’s publicity claims that it is ‘maintaining library services’.

To add insult to injury, the cuts continue at a time when the council has announced that it will be appointing a new Strategic Director for Adult Services to work full-time on the Tri-borough project that is still struggling to find savings, and a new role for a Strategic Director for Regeneration, Housing and 'Worklessness' which will also carry a 'significant salary' by the council's own admission.

So what is a significant salary? The director of ‘regeneration, housing and worklessness’ will be on a pay scale of £138,473 – 187,473, and the director of adult social care will be on £260,000, which combined is well above the cost of running St. James's Library (£357K including staffing, rent, book stock budget, etc). these Salaries have been agreed despite local government minister Eric Pickles urging local authorities to avoid paying salaries higher than that of the prime minister (£142,500).

With the council already axing 350 jobs and 500 more redundancies on the way, it's not surprising critics have hailed it as 'massively offensive' that two members of staff can be paid more than the cost to run St. James' library which is due to close by the end of august this year. 
One employee at Westminster city council has said ' beggars belief that they are suggesting such salaries while we are in the process of experiencing drastic cuts to essential public services, including mass redundancies here at WCC....Westminster is cutting Sure Start, community and youth services, social care, meals-on-wheels, community engagement, libraries, domestic violence, and other services.  There are further savage and unnecessary, ideologically-driven cuts to come.... ' 

others have said  '.... the director of regeneration, housing and worklessness will be paid to oversee the social cleansing of our community, as the cap on housing benefit forces thousands out of their homes.  The director of adult care – who, on over a quarter of a million a year, will be the highest paid public sector worker in the country – will be implementing brutal, swingeing cuts that will see social services withdrawn from thousands of vulnerable residents with genuine support needs beyond their control....'
If this wasn't enough, it has been announced that Westminster council has paid £600,000 in compensation to a firm it axed as it's parking contractor after only a few days. When awarding the biggest parking contract in the UK, Westminster had failed to follow it's own rules by giving the contract to a company £9 million more expensive than it's current contractors. The punchline here is that the council considers this spend a 'saving' rather than evidence of incompetence which is consistent with it's track record thus far.

“Westminster Council spends over £3 million a year on its press and publicity department and the Council has demonstrated beyond doubt that this money would be much better spent on library books and librarians than misleading Council spin to cover the extent and depth of the Conservative cuts”

1 comment:

  1. It's worrying that throughout negotiations, despite redundancies and the closure of services, the council believed it had £9M to spare on a more expensive contract in the first place, and further that £600,000 is considered a bargain for making such a huge mistake. This is tax payer's money being thrown down the pan by those who clearly aren't worth 1% of what they're actually being paid. While millions are wasted, libraries go without a proper summer reading scheme because the council can't afford the summer assistants at £14K (to put that into context 1 director costs about the same as 14 staff members on the summers assistants salary for the year).

    Furthermore, at a time when staff members and members of the public are in need of advice and representation; Surveys show that no one really understands what is happening to their jobs and services and the Unisons are being threatened with Cuts that will further reduce communication and consultation.