As part of a raft of announcements, Government Digital Service (GDS) will receive an additional £450m funding to transform government services by getting more services online. At the same time 11 per cent of the population have never used the internet and 12.6 million adults do not have basic digital skills.
CILIP chief executive, Nick Poole said that without adequate support through trusted library services too many of the population would be left on the wrong side. And tat long-term reductions to library expenditure, staffing and the number of buildings combined with increased demand for Government digital services will create a perfect storm for under-pressure library services.
“The Chancellor’s drive to increase Government’s digital services contrasts with his failure to recognise the role of public libraries to address the digital divide by providing internet access and helping people develop essential digital skills,2 he said. “The digital divide is becoming a chasm.”
Martyn Wade Chair of CILIP Board said he was profoundly disappointed that public libraries and their value to communities and the economy were entirely missing from the Chancellor’s statement and the full Autumn Statement. He pointed out that as statutory services, which attract more than 280 million visits a year and support a range of government agendas, and said it was a shock that public libraries did not get a mention.
“In light of the additional expectations that libraries will have to meet, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport needs to be clear how it will meet the government’s legal obligations to oversee the improvement of public libraries in England,” he said. “Currently the Government has no clear policy, plan or strategy in place for delivering on their legal obligations to oversee the improvement of library services in the public interest.”
The Chancellor stated that local authority spending would be the same in cash terms at the end of the parliament as they were today but CILIP claimed the local government grant would reduce by £6.1bn by 2019-20.
It said this represented a reduction in excess of 50 per cent between 2015-16 and 2019-20. This is forecast to be offset by other sources of local authority income such as locally financed expenditure from the release of assets.
CILIP said it would carry out further analysis to explore the impact of the Autumn Statement and Spending Review on the library and information community and the people that use its services.