Magazine article Public Finance

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Magazine article Public Finance

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Little hope for DIY libraries

* Reporting on the closure of 100 libraries, you note, "yet there is some hope" given that "volunteer numbers have nearly doubled over the past five years" (CIPFA: 100 public libraries close as spending continues to be cut, bit.ly/1Jr4hpT).

To my knowledge, libraries divested by local authorities to volunteers do not have their performance recorded in CIPFA statistics, nor is their use recorded by the local council. Freedom of Information requests no longer apply. Likewise, the secretary of state, responsible for the statutory service under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964, has no jurisdiction. If a DIY library is failing, his intervention cannot be sought. In addition, authors are excluded from Public Lending Right payments when the library is not affiliated to a local authority.

Reliance on volunteers will not often be a sustainable way forward - visitor numbers have plummeted in many of these libraries and, due to a lack of volunteers, opening hours have been very much reduced. More closures may well result.

All the above illustrates how citizens served by these libraries are denied access to the democratic process and to the high-quality library service enjoyed by others in the same area. It is discriminatory and there is no accountability on which residents can rely. Parish councils and community groups are not library authorities for the purpose of the 1964 act.

"Yet there is some hope" may not be the best way to describe the situation.

Shirley Burnham

Takeovers miss fundamental issue

* Poorly performing children's social services are to taken over by other local authorities or charities (Failing children's services to be taken over, PM announces, bit.ly/1OJ8FTu).

Governments and civil servants are obsessed with structures whereas the fundamental problem is nothing to do with this: it is uncontrollable demand with highly controlled resource availability compounded by poor resource management.

You do not need to change structures to address those issues.

Barrie Woodcock

Pension porkies

* Even now, after so much has been written and talked about pension funds, many people still don't get it.

Much of what is written is nonsense, like the recent Washington Post editorial about the US state of Virginia (wapo. st/1SwNXWX), which stated: "To help balance the budget, in the aftermath of the recession, lawmakers deferred more than $700 million in payments to the state pension system, in 2011 and 2012, and they have recently scrambled to accelerate repayments. …

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