Argyll & Bute may “break law” with library cuts

Russell asks Argyll & Bute Council to reconsider recent decisions “because of failures in the decision making process”

The constituency MSP for Argyll & Bute Michael Russell has asked Argyll & Bute Council to reconsider the recent decision of the ruling administration to fire all school librarians and remove the four library vans presently in use because of failures in the decision making process, and the risk that Council now runs of breaking the law.

Mr Russell said:

“The decision by the Argyll & Bute ruling administration ,run by the Tories and the Liberals with the support of a few so called independents , to fire all the school librarians and remove the four library vans serving the most rural parts of the area has been strongly criticised by many within and out with Argyll.

I have had a careful look at both the decision making process and at the law and I think Argyll & Bute Council has problems with both those matters.

The decision needed to be subject to an Equalities Impact Assessment if it was to conform with legal requirements and there is no mention of either matter in the EIA published alongside the budget. Councillors could not therefore have taken a competent decision. In any case an equalities impact assessment , taking the two decisions together, would have to conclude that the measures would disadvantage a number of groups contrary to law.

In addition there are places – Mull in particular – where the Council will be in default of its statutory duty , under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 , to “secure the provision of adequate library facilities for all persons resident in their area” if it goes ahead with both cuts (Section 163 (2)). A legal challenge from Mull would be likely to succeed on the grounds that having to travel to Oban for any library service at all cannot be defined as “adequate” provision.

The combination of the withdrawal of library vans – which serve primary schools – and the withdrawal of the school librarians from secondary schools – will also worsen educational provision and might be subject to a challenge from parents in terms of the delivery of the Council’s educational duty.

Many of the salami slices proposed by Council management in the “Service Choices” programme were rightly withdrawn before final decisions were made. This is one that got through but it is as ill-conceived as the ones that didn’t and may land the authority in legal hot water which would be very expensive for all local tax payers. I would therefore suggest the Council withdraws the cuts to library services now before terminal damage is done that will also be very expensive to repair.”

 

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