Thanks to Richard Beet for this update from the The Bembridge Library Users Group (BLUG). Some fascinating information has come out of the group’s discussions with the Isle of Wight council. Well worth a read for anyone concerned about library closures. Ed
The Bembridge Library Users Group (BLUG) is currently talking to Isle of Wight Council on a number of issues that affect the future of the library service in Bembridge.
In our talks with the four other Island library groups, we were able to highlight common topics as well as to share and provide information.
Priority to retain salaried professionals
Our first priority is to retain the existing library building staffed by salaried professionals.
IWC has already made savings at Bembridge by reducing hours, so we believe that by supporting existing staff and identifying new revenue streams, we could help IWC balance the budget for this well-used and highly popular library.
The legal challenge
Our best chance of retaining the library is to legally prevent the IWC from closing it and selling the site for redevelopment.
This is why our first priority is to support the legal challenge being prepared by Friends of the Isle of Wight Library Service who are working to serve an injunction on IWC.
We understand that because IWC is cutting jobs, not just within the library service, but also across the whole organisation, any reinstatement of a service, either by paid staff, or by volunteers, would come under the scope of legislation known as TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations).
This would mean that any staff dismissed by the council would have recourse to demand reinstatement of their pay and pension from anyone effectively taking on their job, wherever it is located. That would place members of our group and volunteers in a very vulnerable position and as a result we have given Isle of Wight Council until Monday 18 April to come up with a legally enforceable written indemnity against liability.
If IWC is unable to provide this guarantee, then we would have no option but to walk away from the bid.
A new draft 25-year lease on a full repairing basis is currently being drawn up by IWC.
As we have neither the desire nor funds to take on the lease, we believe Bembridge Parish Council would be in the best position to become the leaseholder, and grant licences to both the Library and the Heritage Centre to operate.
Details of the draft lease are not yet available, although the next full Parish Council meeting open to public and press will be held on Tuesday 19 April where this issue will be discussed.
Diversity Impact Assessment (DIA)
Despite initially agreeing with the IWC to cooperate with its requirement to carry out a Diversity Impact Assessment (DIA), in the light of new information presented to us, as well as legal advice, we have decided to withdraw our cooperation as we are not willing to prejudice our position on the planned closure of the library.
Following our decision, other groups have taken the same action. The IWC has had a year to carry out these assessments and at the 11th hour was attempting to pass the responsibility to individuals and embryo groups with little time and no experience of these procedures.
Bembridge Heritage Centre
By retaining the library at its current location, we would also provide security for another of the village’s valuable resources, the Bembridge Heritage Centre.
If IWC were to force the existing library out of the building, the Heritage Centre would no longer be able to operate.
We are disappointed that despite a massive effort put by our members to advance negotiations with the IOW council we regret to report that we are no further forward and that IWC remains resolutely determined to close the library at the end of June.
BLUG is still resolved to provide a library management group for Bembridge. However, given the distinct lack of progress, through no fault of ours, there is a very real danger that we will have to walk away and pass responsibility back to the IOW council.
Keith Fagan (Chairman BLUG)
(Steering Group Committee Members)