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Library privatisation planned in Wokingham Borough without protection

June 10, 2011 12:00 PM

Wokingham Lib Dem councillors are furious that the council is pushing ahead with plans to privatise the Borough's libraries without putting safeguards in place to protect the services offered or the number of libraries. The Conservatives made the decision in May to proceed with outsourcing the library service from next year, with no discussion or consultation.

The Lib Dems are particularly concerned that the council is not telling companies what they will have to provide if they get the contract. The "competitive dialogue" process will allow the companies to specify what they are prepared to offer, and does not even require them to keep the existing 10 libraries open.

Lib Dem group leader Prue Bray said: "Only last week the Conservative councillor in charge of libraries was still claiming there was no privatisation. Yet now the advert has been issued inviting companies to bid for taking over the libraries. It seems the Conservatives are hellbent on handing the service over to a commercial company, who will want to make a profit. Who knows what that could mean for the existing library services?

"Previous experience of the council going down this route is not encouraging. The competitive dialogue process was followed for Wokingham town centre regeneration, and yet four months after the council announced the name of the company that had won the tender we are told the contract has still not been signed - clearly there are difficulties with it. And on 6th June, the council handed over adult social care to a newly created company - whose Chief Executive promptly announced that it meant that 'the council is now able to sell services to make a profit'. A council that sets out to make a profit out of the elderly and vulnerable is hardly going to flinch at going after libraries."