Where next for Libraries and Leisure Services?

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2015 Local Government Service Group Conference
17 February 2015

Conference notes with concern the attack libraries and leisure facilities have faced under the coalition government. As budget cuts have hit hard, councils have explored a number of options which have included: dramatically scaling back on library and leisure services, alternative models to deliver services, or closing facilities.

Libraries do more than simply loan books; they are quite often the hub of communities. In England over a third of the population visit their local library and in more deprived areas this figure rises to nearly half. Furthermore, authority ran leisure facilities provide affordable access to many services, and the physical and mental benefits of regular exercise are well documented.

Library and leisure facilities are used by many in society and they offer a wide range of services provided by well-trained staff. During the last five years many local authorities have looked at alternative models to deliver these services, including setting up charitable trusts or moving services to an existing trust or transferring libraries to volunteer led organisations.

Within leisure a number of services are now provided outside of the local authority, which has involved staff transferring through Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (TUPE). The concern for members is what this could mean in the future for their terms and conditions.

Where alternative models are sought, UNISON branches must be involved in the procurement processes, and that through negotiated procurement agreements they play a vital role in ensuring that members are represented throughout.

We must therefore continue to campaign to keep these services in-house but we must also understand the integral role that procurement and commissioning has in deciding who runs these services in the future, and the role that UNISON branches can play in ensuring that negotiated procurement policies can influence the outcome of tendering processes.

A staggering 324 libraries have been closed under this government, and we have also seen a far greater use of volunteers either supporting facilities or running them wholesale. This is something we must continue to campaign against.

Conference calls on the Service Group Executive to:-

1)Continue to provide materials that branches can use to campaign against the closure of services such as library and leisure;

2)Encourage branches to work with employers so that there is an agreed procurement policy that ensure branches are involved throughout the entire commissioning process;

3)Encourage regions to work with branches to train reps regarding procurement, commissioning and alternative models of delivery.