'Front line' libraries more important than county council's 'back office' services, says Northamptonshire's Lib Dems

The county council announced some 10million of cuts to public services in October. Chris Stanbra (inset) says they should cut their own back office services first.
The county council announced some 10million of cuts to public services in October. Chris Stanbra (inset) says they should cut their own back office services first.

An opposition leader is calling on the county council to cut their own "back office" big-budget spends over Northamptonshire's "front line" libraries and trading standards teams.

Leader of the Liberal Democrats Chris Stanbra says the council must choose between its own internal teams and libraries used by communities.

It comes after Lib Dem county councillors teased they had a "secret plan to save the libraries" at a full council meeting last week.

Some £10million of cuts to public services have been announced for next year, which includes closing up to 21 libraries and making nearly half the county's trading standards team redundant.

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The Lib Dems now want the council to cut their own internal "performance measuring" and comms teams first.

Councillor Stanbra said: "They are back-office services that to me come under the banner of 'nice to have'.

"Libraries are vital frontline services and shouldn't be cut in favour of back-office services.

"I expect they have looked at this as an option. They will say they have cut it to the bone, but we are at the point where they have to justify why they are more important to the county council and the people of Northamptonshire than libraries and trading standards."

A motion to offer the public a "spare the libraries" option as part of the public consultation on the cuts was defeated 32 to 11 against at a full council meeting on Friday (November 24).

At the same meeting, councillor Brian Meredith, Lib Dems, said: "We've actually found the money within the county council to save the libraries. We know where we can get the money from."

In short, the Lib Dems are asking the county council to instead make cuts to two "back office" services to save the "front line" libraries and trading standards team.

The first is the "Business Intelligence and Project Management" team, with a budget of £2.5million, which measures how the council is performing through stats.

The second is the Comms and Marketing Team, with a budget of £270,000, which manages the council's press office and communications.

Councillor Stanbra said: "Of course the council want a robust, well-funded comms team and a business intelligence unit telling them how to improve. But to us, much more important than that is libraries and trading standards."

A Northamptonshire County Council spokesman said: “All areas of the council are now being reviewed as part of the work to identify further savings for phase 2 of the budget-setting process for 2018/19.

“There is already a budget savings relating to the communications and marketing function currently being consulted upon as part of the phase 1 budget proposals."