Manchester City Council

On the Rack

I often describe the position the City Council is in as an impossible one, trying to balance an enormous range of demands and expectations of Manchester citizens with the ever diminishing financial resources available to us. Yesterday I met a delegation from the Save Burnage Library Campaign which included primary school pupils right through to pensioners. It was the last day of the formal consultation on the proposed library strategy so I was there principally to listen, but was given a bit of a grilling by a number of students from Burnage High School.

One of the questions related to new technology and its impact on the traditional and not so traditional library, the former focussing on books, the latter just as much on information and i.t.. Library usage has gone down significantly. One of the reasons is reduced opening hours but another is the proliferation of e-readers, people choosing to download a book rather than borrow one. Another is the rapid spread of smart phones, tablets and free wi-fi. Of course not everybody has access to these choices and part of the challenge to the Council is how we continue to provide for a diminishing number of service users in a way that is relatively easily accessible for them, but also a reasonable cost to Council tax payers in general.

Articulate, informed and challenging young people takes me back to Tuesday and the quarterly meeting of the Manchester Partnership Board. The highlight of the meeting was a presentation by elaine Morrison, Head of 10-19 Commissioning at the City Council on engaging with young people and young people's comparative service satisfaction. Manchester Youth Council was re-launched last year but on a very different model to its previous incarnation. In the new model, rather than trying to align the work of the Youth Council with that of the City Council, the youth councillors have now set their own agenda and priorities, the big two for the current year being jobs and perceptions of young people.

There's a bit of survey evidence that shows that there is a bit of a hill to climb on the second of these. Whilst a small majority of young people believe they make a contribution towards society, 72% of the population generally don't. Similarly whilst only 19% of young people think young people in Manchester do not take enough responsibility for their actions, that rises to 58% of the general population. Interestingly, the survey suggest that the older people get, the more positive they are about young people.

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There is one response to “On the Rack”

  1. Library Sympathiser Says:

    The truth of the matter is that a number of factors associated with the closure of libraries targeted as part of this consultation will actually impose greater hardship on younger residents of Manchester. Whilst Manchester's growth is important, this cannot happen without the provision of library services to local residents. The closure of Burnage library in particular, which serves an area with a higher proportion of 4 to 15 year olds and lower proportion of young professionals than the Manchester average, will affect 31% of the youngest demographics in that area overall, never mind that these youngest 0 - 20 year olds make up 51% of library users.

    The resulting effect will see low literacy levels rise in the area and by the figures contained in the 2006 KPMG foundation report into the economic effects of low literacy, will result in an increased cost to society at large for every single one of those individuals of upto just over £53,000 over a 37 year period. This means that to solve the problems caused to Burnage residents and deal with the increased burden on social care services and crime budgets amongst others, the council will have to eventually find £1.55 million extra per year just to make up an increase in poor literacy from 9.9% to 17%. Never mind how this damages the future of the city, especially when figures for other library catchments are factored in.

    Additionally, closing community libraries such as Burnage actually result in the closure of the most efficient libraries when measured using MLIS's own value for money metrics. The cost per transaction in Burnage library is around 95p when the Manchester average is £1.55. The result of closing Burnage library alone, to save what is a very small value relative to some of the bugger libraries who have lower borrowing per 1,000 head of population, will increase this value from £1.55 to 1.57. An increase of 2p, just by closing Burnage. Closing libraries in this manner is a false economy which results in the least performing libraries, with the highest cost and lowest use per head, remaining open.

    When an organisation is in crisis, betting on future growth at the expense of operating current services is never a good idea. I am sure all library campaigners wish the City Council to reconsider those proposals before the removal of such statutory services impact the residents of the city adversely.

 

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The blog of the leader of Manchester City Council, Councillor Richard Leese.

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