In 2016, Peter joined local campaigners challenging Labour’s decision to close Darlington Library. He used the library from a very young age. In the run up to his GCSEs, he spent countless hours revising within the reference library.
After collecting petition signatures, speaking at public meetings and connecting with local groups, he ultimately found a top Public Law Barrister, Michael Imperato, to challenge in the courts Labour’s decision to close the library. When faced with a legal challenge, they delayed the decision until 2017.
In 2017, he authored a research report, challenging Labour’s latest decision to close the Library. The report reveals:
Darlington Council already consistently ranks near the very bottom of over 130 local authorities in spending per resident on library services
● 111 councils spent more per resident on libraries in 2014/15 than Darlington did (out of 132)
● 126 councils spent more per resident in 2013/14 (out of 132)
● 131 councils spent more per resident in 2012/13 (out of 137)
Despite very low spending per resident on library services, Darlington Council spends some of the highest amounts per resident in the country on senior officer salaries and perks
● Darlington Council ranks 7th highest in the country (out of 145 councils) in how much it spends per resident on the Chief Executive.
● Darlington Council spends £1.69 per resident on the Chief Executive compared to an average of across England. The salary and employer pension contributions total £178,603.
● Darlington Council ranks #1 highest in the country (out of 102 councils for which data is available) in how much it spends per resident on the Director of Public Health.
● Darlington Council spends £1.05 per resident on the Director of Public Health compared to an average of £0.45 across England. The salary and employer pension contributions total £110,871.
With frontline services like libraries being cut, these inefficiencies in the back office – like sky-high senior salaries – also mean that Darlington residents are facing rocketing local taxes
● Darlington Council have introduced the second highest council tax increases in the country since 2010 – more than 351 other local authorities.
● Council tax since 2010 has risen almost three times as fast (14%) as the national average (5%). If Darlington Council had increased council tax by 5% rather than 14%, this would have saved the average household in Darlington £105 a year.
This report ultimately formed the basis of Peter’s request that the national government call in the council’s decision to close the library.
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