Gloucestershire

Redundant Gloucestershire librarians back on payroll

Thirty-four members of Gloucestershire libraries service who were made redundant have been re-employed by the council on casual contracts.

The Conservative-run county council wanted to stop funding 10 libraries and transfer them to the community.

But this was challenged in the High Court and a judicial review of the council's decision ordered.

Leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition Jeremy Hilton said the whole review had been an "utter disaster".

Mr Hilton added Judge Martin McKenna's decision last month that the closures were "unlawful" meant the council had had to go back to the original opening hours.

'Fag packet'

"This is a fine example of the shambles in the way the council has handled the matter.

"The whole review looks like it has been worked out on the back of a fag packet," Mr Hilton added.

But Councillor Mark Hawthorne, leader of Gloucestershire County Council, said the Lib Dems' own budget proposals last year included 75% of library savings.

"We're continuing to draw up our proposals for the future of Gloucestershire libraries, which will be published in the new year," he added.

In a Freedom of Information request from the BBC, the authority said the 34 people had worked a total of 683 hours over 16 weeks.

"This averages out at about 57 hours per week across all libraries which is 4.8% of all opening hours.

"These workers were recruited to expand the numbers on the casual relief register specifically to cover these opening hours under the terms of the injunction issued on 7 July 2011, whilst waiting for the full judicial review hearing," Mr Hawthorne said.

Self service machines

The council defines a casual contract as one where it is not obliged to offer work or the individual to accept it.

During the period 1 April 2011 to 31 November 2011, 66 members of library staff were made redundant at a cost of more than £1m.

Half of these redundancies were due to a restructure of management level posts, senior library officers and back office support, a council spokesman said.

"This is in line with efficiencies taken across all council services in response to the 30% cut in council funding.

"These staff were not working directly in front-line customer assistant posts in the county's libraries.

"The introduction of self service machines has also reduced staffing requirements in libraries," he added.

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