Archive | June, 2013

Talking Books withdrawal: SCC found guilty of maladministration

17 Jun

The RNIB’s (Royal National Institute of Blind People) Talking Books is a subscription audiobook CD loan service, delivered by post, offered to the blind and partially-sighted. Until recently Suffolk County Council funded subscriptions for 250 recipients. This is distinct from the Spoken Word CD loan collections in the public libraries.

SCC decided to remove the Talking Books service*, (which cost up to £82 per year per person); that’s around £20,000 in all. Complaints were made by recipients and the RNIB represented them to the Local Government Ombudsman (rather than going through the Judicial Review process). The LGO eventually found SCC guilty of maladministration in her report of 11 October 2012. But in the end, only 30 people took up the ‘community care assessment’ offered by SCC, and 7 had the service reinstated. We assume that, as a result of the original funding cut, some 243 people are no longer receiving the service that they had in 2010. So after being found guilty of maladministration by the LGO, SCC continues to “save” virtually all the money that it set out to save.

The danger of tampering with such a vital service is all too evident in this example. Instigating a plan to enable all previous users of Talking Books to resume the service should be an SCC priority.

The Audit Committee of Suffolk Council met at Endeavour House on 12 June 2013. Access to all the relevant agendas, attachments and minutes of previous meetings can be found on the SCC website.

Agenda item 10: Audit Committee meeting 31 January 2013. Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) report on complaint about withdrawal of Talking Books service. “8(e): The Council failed to have regard to the duty to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service with reference to the needs of blind and partially sighted people;”

One hopes that the EADT/Star Local Government correspondent, Paul Geater, is aware of this and should be following up on this story. [*We assume that SCC initially made the Talking Books cut before the IPS took over Suffolk’s public libraries in August 2012.]

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