Save Burnage Library

Burnage library opened in 1974, replacing the previous, fire damaged library. Since then, it has provided the community with an essential service for learning and leisure and has maintained a central position in the community as other council services have eroded over the years.

Locally, it is the last surviving public council facility, which provides an essential resource for young and old alike and we are fighting to stop its merciless closure. Please lend your support our campaign and help keep Burnage library open!

Campaign meetings are public and take place at Burnage Community Centre on Wednesday evenings, 6pm - 8pm until the decision on the consultation on the 17th April 2013.

Sign the online petition at;

Alternatively, sign the petitions at the health centre, library and other outlets and don't forget to like our Facebook page at:

Sunday, 19 May 2013

A sham, a sham, our kingdom for their sham!!

"There is no sin except stupidity" - Oscar Wilde

Council Executive Committee: 17th May 2013

Burnage Library: 1974-2013  RIP

Following what we thought was a modest victory on the 14th May at the neighbourhood scrutiny committee, a few of us attended the council's executive committee meeting on the morning of the 17th May, just to make sure they saw it through.

The meeting started with Richard Lees introducing the agenda and we found the library discussion on item 4 of the agenda again.

We got to item 4 very quickly, however due to traffic problems our speaker Sam Darby was delayed so they deferred the library decison until later, to deal with the broadway baths issue.

Sam arrived and when the Broadway bath matters were decided, it as time for the main event.

What was interesting was how the meeting was carried out. Richard Lees was very definitely in control of matters and if I was not mistaken, seemed to be intent on making decisions the way he wanted them to go. That somewhat worried me, as there was the chance that the library consultation results from the scrutiny committee could well be overturned.  Neil MacInnes was there and so were Sue Murphy and Rosa Battle.

Recap: Neighbourhood Scrutiny Committee

During the neighbourhood scrutiny committee meeting on the 14th May, two amendments were proposed by Mike Amesbury, which were seconded and thirded and more or less unanimously agreed by the scrutiny committee to be put forward to the executive committee meeting on the Friday, 17th May. They were in essence:
  1. Amend the report to remove the date of the 29th June for closure of the library
  2. Maintain staff in libraries even after their transferral to any continuing groups
Neil MacInnes read verbatim a statement that he had prepared towing the line for the library closure. Rosa Battle spoke to confirm the appointment of a library officer to work with the 6 libraries slated for closure and Sue Murphy then spoke in support of the closures, pretty much as if the scrutiny committee hadn't happened. Councillors Wheale and Dimauro, who are both Lib Dem councillors spoke in support of the libraries, but Richard Lees just accused them of lying, of causing the financial problems in the first place, of not delivering on promises to lobby government on MCC's behalf and stated that everything cllr Simon Wheale was saying was lies. Simon Wheale continued to argue the case for the libraries and Richard Lees, after more or less telling him to shut up (very politically of course) just repeatedly shrugged his shoulders and stopped listening. I found that laughable so that had to be tweeted straight away :-/ 

Despite us finding out later that the minutes included both the amendments, the only concillation we got was the Richard Lees mentioned that one amendment had been proposed to remove the date, but then caveated that by saying that "The council expects that all proposals will be in place by the end of June" which to me signalled the death knell, since this in essence is the same as the original proposal, just without an explicit date.

Sure enough, Richard Lees then proposed the closure of the libraries, without debate on any of the points, without any representative mentioning any concrete plans to address the issues raised in the equality impact assessment etc. The whole thing was full of flowery language, no numbers other than the £80 million worth of cuts we had to make and reiterated Sue Murphy's point on how if Manchester was treated fairly the city would be £1 million a week better off... blah blah and sure enough, it received near unanimous agreement from the council, despite the scrutiny committee results. So that was the final nail in the coffin.

The Backlash

Needless to say our group amongst others were furious! The whole consultation had been an absolute sham. Members of our campaign showed their anger by voicing it directly at Richard Lees and Sue Murphy as we were on our way out. Richard Lees then said if we wanted to discuss it with Rosa Battle, we could stay until after the meeting and that the remaining matters on the agenda would only take 5 or 10 minutes to conclude.

Sure enough we got our time. Eimonne tagged along too but Neil MacInnes and his team, yet again, made a very swift exist.

Rosa battle adopted a very political stance and was trying to bring order to proceedings by asking people to put their hands up to speak.In my experience, that means that choosing someone to speak would be at their (or sympathisers') discretions. Given the dirty tactics we'd just experienced, even I had to say my decorum went out of the window. It was time to hold them to account and I was going to do just that and luckily so was everyone else. I knew Eimonne is technically a senior officer in that department, so I was going to have a conversation with him, bypassing Rosa altogether. I didn't have the inclination to give her the time of day.

It's no secret that I think MCC have not exchausted the options they had. I am an apolitial individual and until this experience, really had no strong political feelings in any direction. If the analysis was competent, I wouldn't be so angry. I stated that almost word for word but one thing that stuck in my throat was when Rosa Battle had the audacity to imply that the decison had been made (which it had) and in order to move forward, why don't I work with the council to build the service. Someone from the Fallowfield campaign implied I should just "suck it and see" and Rosa agreed. I more or less blew up at that point and said in no uncertain terms that I did just taste council operations and it sucked, so I can't trust the council to competently work with us in any way. It was a disgrace.    

I and other campaign members, who were visibly very upset with the decion, targeted the next barrage at Eimonne. I started to pick apart their reasoning and they were lost. It was obvious they were lost. Rosa tried to diffuse the situation by joking "I feel like I'm on Countdown" (personally I doubt anyone in MCC could qualify) inferring that she actually had to htink numbers. I took Eimonne to task on the strategy, since he needs to align with the cuts and after confirming with Rosa that no staff would lose their jobs in the library service, they could have spread the detremine across all of Manchester by potentially using volunteers, moving the extraneous staff  out of the library service to elsewhere in the council where operational requirements demand (and thus taking funding from those budgets instead of the library service budget) and they could not only keep the library service open, but still have change!

The minutes of the scrutiny committee were not circulated to all public attendees of the meeting. They were only circulated to the councillors on the scrutiny committee. So we never saw them to verify they were a correct record until after the executive committee meeting had ended and even then, whilst we were in this heated debate with Rosa and Eimonne. Rosa indicated that there was a 'plan' for Burnage, which our campaign jumped on! Since we were not aware of it. Upon our insistence, Eimonne then clarified what the plan was and as far as I was concerned, that wasn't a plan.It was a vision! He tried to fob my arguments off as operational matters but I told him that in times of uncertainty, those are constraints on your strategy and reiterated that he needed to align with the cuts using current evidence and the report hadn't done that.

In short, we left there very aggrieved. A good number of our campaign team stayed in the cafe for lunch and also to discuss some options for the future of the library. We have a meeting on the 22nd May and we will discuss them then.

Burnage Library RIP! :-(


Sunday, 12 May 2013

CRITIQUE #4: At least use up-to-date data!!

"We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility of our future." - George Bernard Shaw

My attention moved to the IMD data, since something struck me about the ranking MCC used in appendix 7 of their report. Northenden in particular stood out as sitting pretty in the poverty stakes, sandwiched nicely between the affluent and desirable areas of Chorlton and Didsbury and ranking lower in deprivation than the city centre.

When checking the details of the library catchment areas on pages 132 for Chorlton, 138 for Didsbury and 162 for Northenden in appendix 12 of the library consultation report. I noted that in Didsbury, 1 out of the 22 Lower Super Output Areas (LSOA) were in the top 20% most deprived in the country. By comparison, Chorlton had 9 out of 26 in the top 20% most deprived and Northenden had 1 out of 4. For a second, given the IMD rankings MCC used, I even pondered whether I should buy property in Northenden if it is made up of Didsbury like affluence :-)

I just wanted to check if the details were accurate before I put down a deposit. So I got hold of the ONS statistics for IMD for 2010.

Technical Note
The Index of Multiple Deprivation is a single number which rolls up two main economic variables. Rate of income benefits and the rate of employment Benefits. It is a linear regression model and as such, includes a series of beta coefficients and a residual value which are all looked up from a table. For those who are interested, the ONS method can be found here.

I picked off the IMD values for all areas from the 2010 data and to my surprise they didn't match! I know, I know, I should know better by now given that it is MCC.

fig 1 - MCC to ONS Average IMD, together with the ranking difference (click to enlarge)

The table above shows the ranking using the IMD values from the 2010 data on the left, with the MCC ranking in the middle and the difference in ranking on the rightmost column. The highlighted libraries show the ones that have moved. You will note that the MCC correlation with this data is good, but not perfect. given this is a standard dataset used everywhere, I did wonder how this could be. More on that later.

In the real IMD figures from 2010 (reported in 2011 and updated 2013 - There hasn't been any more recent datasets published) Northenden is the 10th most deprived area of Manchester, just above Burnage.

Negative numbers mean that the library catchment areas has 'moved' (or been moved) down the rankings to allow it to be considered a more affluent area and thus have lower need. Look at Northenden, it has been moved 11 placed further down the rankings than the ONS statistics show (data source: Department for Communities and Local Government)! Burnage is 3 places lower than it should be, Fallowfield is 7 places higher than it should be. Moss Side is 4 places higher than it should be and City Library is 3 places higher than it should be.

OK, so remembering the correlation matrix from my first critique of this report, I was looking to see what this would do to the correlations around the average IMD scores. There is a small clump which strongly relates IMD to the children and young people statistic. Sure enough, when I built the correlation matrix for this newly ranked data, I got the following. I've put the original correlation matrix underneath for comparison:

fig 2 - 2010 IMD correlation matrix (click to enlarge)

fig 3 - Original correlation matrix (click to enlarge)

You can see from this that the new matrix at the top shows that IMD now doesn't have any moderate or strong correlation with the percentage of children and young people in the catchment area at all.

So what does this tell us?

I don't want to speculate too much on what has happened here, since in either case, the decision did not consider IMD at all. However, a number of things could have caused this:

  • To appeal to the cynical amongst us, I could say that MCC could have attempted to 'fudge' the figures presented in Appendix 7 for areas like Moss Side, Fallowfield, Burnage and Northenden to make them seem more or less affluent than they otherwise are, possibly to avoid difficult questions around deprivation and equality impact. Giving Moss Side a Higher IMD rating could have been to attempt to decrease the overall sum of the rankings in the combined score of appendix 7, effectively increasing the chances of that library remaining open. 
  • Similarly, Burnage and Northenden being regarded as more affluent than they are would mean they have less of a need for a library in that ranking.
  • Alternatively, MCC has used very old data or data not otherwise available. Again, not sure why the latter would be the case, since this is a standard dataset used throughout the UK. I may dig out the 2008 published data (which will be for 2005) and check them against the MCC report.
  • Poor data quality/analysis. 
Note, using the correct IMDs, the correlation matrix is now completely based on library catchment area. No other variable was really considered (remembering the total usage stats are numeric and so are dependent on the size of the catchment area). It could have been that these figures were modified to justify decisions already made or Northenden has indeed won the proverbial lottery. I am sure the place is lovely, but given economic benefit, the data in the consultation report and where it sits relative to the city centre, I suspect I might save my deposit for now.


I h8 Appendix 8!

"That must be wonderful; I have no idea of what it means." - Albert Camus

Following on from our submitted impact analysis transport and my comments in the previous blog, I was looking at Appendix 8, with it's distinct lack of legend or key trying to figure out what it was showing us. Two maps imply 20 minutes of walking and public transport catchments areas for both the current and proposed estate. This is an important and relevant analysis, but what I noted was that Appendix 8 is not explicitly referenced anywhere in the library consultation report.

After a bit of head scratching, I managed to work out what these maps were. This pink background on the two contour maps show the reader the catchment area for 20 minutes of walking or travelling by public transport to a library somewhere on the estate. The pins, which you can barely see in the report show the location of the library estate. Finally, the combination of blue, red, yellow, green, olive green and lavender contour lines effectively bound the Manchester City Council catchment area as a whole. OK, so far so good.

However the report is presented on two pages, so it is not easy to see the differences in the accessibility of the estate. So I took both maps and overlay them to find the difference and for clarity I produced the following map. Yes it does look like a 'spot the difference' competition. Indeed, that is effectively what it is  :-)

fig 1 - Transportation differences between current proposed  estate (click to enlarge)

Important Notes

There are 5 major areas which are going to see accessibility to a library drop. Following on from yesterday's critique, these are the areas surrounding New Moston, (circle A), Burnage (B), Barlow Moor (C and D),  Northenden (D and E). The component drop in provision for each area of the Manchester Library and Information  Services estate is large. Burnage, Northenden and New Moston in particular will find themselves impacted with very large loss of accessibility.

In appendix 8 of the library consultation report, you can probably see 'spots' of accessibility and service provision such as those in the top right and also circled in region B in my diagram and may be wondering why it isn't connected to the rest of the background colour. After all, you would assume that if you lived in those areas and they are within 20 minutes walk of the library estate and walked to a library, then anywhere on your journey is also within that distance right? And you'd be correct, for walking.

I pretty strongly suspect these spots are due to public transport links, since if a bus stop doesn't exist at a specific point in the route, you can't catch the bus from there. Since you can only catch it from a bus stop, the next bus stop in the journey would be the next spot along or you go into the main body of the pink background. The reason they are circles and not just 'dots' is because of a walking 'window' to the bus stop  which allows the analysis to include it a 20 minute journey in total (i.e. the bus journey and the walking to and from the bus stop associated with it). For example, if the bus journey is 18 minutes, then the circle of walking would be 2 minutes from a bus stop, so the size of the spot is quite small. If the bus journey is 5 minutes, then the radius of walking is 10 minutes, which would be 5 times larger in diameter than the 2 minute spot (around 25 times larger in area).

Importantly, the new library estate opens up a hole in provision where Barlow Moor library is (circle D) and the combined closure of Northenden Library mutually affect  residents of both regions. The same 'double whammy' is true for Burnage and Levenshulme residents (circle E).

Additionally, due to the aggregate grouping of the walking and bus times, the move from a resident walking to a resident catching a bus (or two, as we have seen previously) is not recorded. Ignoring that the analysis does not appear to have taken appendix 8 into account, this means that larger detrimental effects which include more than one bus journey within that 20 minute window will occur due to the intermediate leg waiting times. A long wait in the intermediate leg of a journey, is impossible to determine from these maps alone.

Hence, for those catching two buses, especially those on the north side of Burnage (although they are shown here within 20 minute from the estate), the wait at the intermediate stop would take residents using public transport over the 20 minute journey time which is somewhat corroborated using the 30 minute frequency given on page 93 of the library consultation report.

Charteris Implications

The Charteris report highlighted that Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council took travelling times into account as it considered it a better measure of accessibility and impact than the straight line distance. Given I submitted that within our transport impact assessment report, I definitely agree that this is true. However, again, MCC insist on using straight line distance, which are irrelevant measure to the population of Manchester. Travelling by car requires using a road, which in Manchester, is never the shortest distance between two points. Using public transport, you can only go where the bus or train goes and that is also not the shortest distance as the crow flies. So it was adjudged that Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council actually did that right and the Charteris report didn't fault them on that specific point.

Hence, MCC with it's 'as the crow flies' measure is likely to fall foul of the Charteris outcome. The granularity and analysis of this information is inadequate and indeed, is not included at all. Presenting a diagram without reference to the analysis conducted using it, does not constitute having analysed the impact. It's 'lip service'.


Yet again, MLIS don't appear to know what they are analysing. As we have seen in the first critique, the decision to back the proposals within the library consultation is based on corroborating the original decision to close those libraries. As I showed then, the decision is not fair and impartial and is not based on anything other than catchment area size. It doesn't care or take into account the impact assessments nor does it care about the provisions for protected characteristics (specifically children and young people).

As we in the Save Burnage Library campaign showed in our Impact assessment on community literacy and demographics, the effect of these closures on children of those library catchment areas where accessible provision will not be available will massively impact those individuals for the rest of their lives, decrease the Manchester literacy rate, increase costs to MCC in other budgetary areas to solve the resulting social difficulties, disadvantage not just those individuals, but the entire city as the proportion of the local skilled workforce declines. This would mean Manchester becomes dependent on immigrated income from other parts of the UK, whilst simultaneously potentially seeing knowledge emigration out of the city.

I call upon the councillors of the neighbourhood scrutiny committee to return or reject this report on the grounds it has not considered relevant evidence and also considered irrelevant material.


Saturday, 11 May 2013

The Relevance of Irrelevance

"Schools and libraries are the twin cornerstones of a civilized society. Libraries are only good if people use them, like books only exist when someone reads them."
- Nicholas Meyer

Within the MCC consultation report is the repeated phrase "Distance: Straight line" in tables within the document. Ignoring that I'm a bit miffed they didn't read the transport reports the Burnage Library Campaign submitted, which shows why this is a somewhat useless measure, it is also an irrelevant measure of impact.

I presented this case to cllr Sue Murphy and Neil MacInnes myself as part of the consultation. OK, so I was treated with some contempt as they obviously didn't listen and from my last post, had no intention of listening. However, that aside, when assessing transport impact on local residents, the straight line measures they use to assess coverage using the locus of a point are not the same as the distance travelled by individuals.

The consultation report includes walking distances and distances by car, but fails to include them in any substantive analysis. As a result, the figures remain based on this mythical straight line distance which is useful  only for an estimate of geographical coverage.

So what's the big deal?

For individuals currently accessing Burnage library, they have to get on a bus to another library. The MCC report proposes that Didsbury and Withington are the nearest alternatives. By the straight line measure, this is technically correct. Withington and Didsbury are claimed to be 1.1 and 1.5 miles respectively from Burnage. The car driving distances are 2 miles to Didsbury and 1.3 to Withington. However, as I hinted at the time, the real implication to individuals is actually a combination of a number of factors. What worries me is MCC really didn't do much more analysis than I gave them and still push the straight line distance as if travelling as the 'crow flies' is even possible. As a point of equality impact, this straight line distance is a meaningless and irrelevant measure.

Coverage Map
Within the report you have this image:

fig 1 - Appendix 11 of consultation report. Proposed library estate coverage map

This is what the proposed coverage of the estate would be if the library proposals went ahead. It is  a diagram built from 1.5 mile radii from every remaining library in the estate after the proposals have been completed.

However, what I don't analytically like about this is that the circles overlap, but I have a very strong suspicion that if MCC are looking for a bare minimum coverage map, the estate is over covered (i.e. the council will be paying money for libraries they don't need) whilst at the same time having lighter or no coverage in other areas. For example, in the centre of the triangle between Brooklands, Wythenshaw and Didsbury, there is a little spot near Northenden which will have zero coverage within 1.5 miles.

So I have superimposed the loci of 1.5 miles over the top, but made each one slightly transparent. The overlaps will obviously become darker, with the more overlap, the greater the darkness (and hence coverage). These overlaps are effectively covered by more than one library in the 1.5 mile radius around it.

fig 2 - Overlay of 1.5 mile catchment areas (click to enlarge)

As has come up in some of my other analyses, Moss Side is yet again double covering several areas and not improving the overall coverage map. Indeed, if you account for the incredibly poor usage statistics for 2012 of 598 borrows per 1,000 population, compared with Burnage (3053), Fallowfield (2726), Northenden (4722), Miles Platting (6520), New Moston (4275) and Levenshulme (4042) and also account for the component of premises cost it has (£3.40) PER BORROW relative to the other 6 libraries of Burnage (£0.41), Fallowfield (£1.75), Northenden (£0.63), Miles Platting (£8.67), New Moston (£1.23) and Levenshulme (£0.85), then Moss Side Powerhouse Library, dare I say, is looking like a waste of resources in terms of service provision and coverage.

To prove it, I removed the circle representing the locus of 1.5 miles around Moss Side Powerhouse, to simulate what the estate coverage map would look like if Mos Side was closed and this is what I got.

fig 3 - Library estate coverage map without Moss Side Powerhouse Library  (click to enlarge)

It doesn't look much different does it? This is because Moss Side Powerhouse Library's 1.5 mile radius is also covered by a host of other libraries (Central, Longsight, Chorlton, Withington, and some of Beswick). So it's removal doesn't constitute any drop in coverage at all. Though, as our previous Transport Impact Analysis shows, it is the closest to Burnage that will remain with a car park!

Take very careful note MLIS, I have not introduced any less coverage, I have not introduced any new gaps in provision and I have also just saved the council £36,389 plus staffing costs, which would cover the premises costs of keeping Burnage AND Northenden library open, maintain Manchester wide coverage and still give change.

Note, given the council's assessment within this consultation report, especially around Appendix 7 and the decision founded upon that, IMD ranking and child population do not matter in this council decision as proven in my previous blog post.

Bus and Walk

For those who have mobility problems, are elderly, or have children, a journey to a library is the combination of walking to or from a bus stop on either end, the journey on public transport itself and the cost of that journey to them. In MCC's own analysis (which in this case matches ours), two buses would be required to travel to Withington tor Didsbury. I quote from the report:

The nearest library would be either Withington or Didsbury - for most people in Burnage this would involve a 2 bus journey, both of which run every 30 minutes."
When you are catching connecting modes of transport, the sequencing of those travel options is of paramount importance. In this example, if you are running late and miss the bus, you will wait 30 minutes for the next bus. Let's suppose the timetables for the first bus has it getting to the connecting stop 1 minute after the bus for the next leg has left. As a result, the two sets of 30 minute waits cited by MCC will collate in this journey. This means someone could end up spending 59 minutes of the journey just waiting compared to 11 minutes actually being on the bus and there would be 8 to 10 minutes of walking in total. That is 59 + 11 + 8 = 78 minutes... 78 minutes to get to a library that is only 1.3 miles away? Do I want to take that chance with two young children?

However, if you get to the first stop on time, the bus timetable has you at the intermediate stop 5 minutes before the next bus is due, then the total waiting time will not exceed that 5 minute period by much. The difference to the total journey could be a whopping 54 minutes over the 78 minute example above.

So what options would we have? Well, for starters, if we neglect the nearest libraries idea and focus on the easiest to get to. For residents of Burnage without mobility issues, which by MCC's report number 93%, the easiest options are not within the 1.5 mile boundary and they are not Withington or Didsbury. It is Longsight library for those who catch the 197 (as this bus travels right through the majority of Burnage) or alternatively the Central Library, as the 197, 192 and 50 stop around there. Certainly for Burnage residents, The cost to anyone travelling to Withington or Didsbury is the same as travelling to the city centre, where the buses run once every 5 minutes. The question is, what is that cost?

Well, the cost to Burnage residents of a journey to and from pretty much any library will be more than a DaySaver ticket costs. MCC included the prices of those tickets in the report, but yet again did almost nothing with them. To put this in context, I'll return to the Charteris report model example of one parent with two children which I posted in my previous blog post. The journeys to the nearest libraries will cost:

  • Didsbury = £7.90 (buses arrive once every 30 minutes 2 buses) 
  • Withington = £7.90 (buses arrive once every 30 minutes, 2 buses)  
  • Longsight = £7.90 (buses arrive once every 30 minutes, 1 bus)  
  • Central/City = £7.90 (buses arrive once every 5 minutes, 1 bus)

This is assuming it's all StageCoach services. If not, it will cost more. So even if I was daft enough to want to spend £7.90 to get to a library I should have on my doorstep, I would most likely want to choose Central, given that the buses are frequent and also that I have potentially got somewhere to take the two kids, though I do have to keep a much closer eye on them. This is nowhere near inside the 1, 1.5 or 2 mile radii cited by MCC.

I don't want to give MCC license to say "Oh, OK then! Catch the bus to central, we'll close Burnage anyway" but I suspect that is what they will do :-(

Car Travel

For the 58% of Burnage households that have the option of using their car, their requirements are somewhat different. However, MCC have not analysed requirements here at all. They assume you can park somewhere near Withington or worse, Didsbury (good luck with that one) and that it will be free. Free parking? In Manchester? This is the council who, a couple of years ago, established extortionate parking charges in the city centre, extended charging hours until 8pm and charged even on a Sunday. There is a 10% hike also waiting in the wings.

I am starting to question how short a memory they think us yokels in the suburbs have. I for one, gave up membership of my city centre gym because it was costing me over £100 a month just to park. If I want to go shopping I either use Stockport or the Trafford centre as they have cheaper parking or free parking.

This is not to mention the extra petrol costs. Note, if as MCC suggests on page 108, teachers are going to be collecting books from remote locations, they are going to be submitting their fuel expenses through the school's expenses process. This means that this is yet another item which comes back to MCC anyway, although maybe through another budget. This is assuming teachers or teaching assistants have any time at all to go and collect books, given their workload.

So how much does it cost to park then? Obviously the consultation report hasn't considered this, but on the assumption you go to the city centre because you can't find a space anywhere near Didsbury or Withington, the car parking charges will vary between £4.00 and £6.50.

As for the fuel, for the sake of example, the parent and two children travel in a 3 year old Renault Zafira 1.8i VVT, the fuel consumption will be around the 38mpg mark. A litre of fuel currently costs about £1.34 and the journey is 5.4 miles each way. So the total cost to travel to Manchester and back is £1.73. In total, parking and driving, it is between £5.73 and £8.23. Add to this any food or snacks you'd give the kids and you have suddenly got an adventure on your hands.


Yet again, a troublesome analysis by MCC. I haven't done as much of a job as I would like, so there may be a 'part 2', but I was fuming at this result also. 

I hope I don't come across like I am picking on Moss Side Powerhouse. It is not intentional and certainly isn't based on poor information, unlike the decisions that MCC are making. However, we have to be mindful that Moss Side Powerhouse doesn't get adequate use and like Miles Platting Library, it costs a lot for that provision. However, unlike Miles Platting it doesn't add any coverage or value to service provision at all.

In the mean time, I am still left here scratching my head as to how MCC could be so callous as to introduce factors into the consultation report which are irrelevant and not take account of those that are relevant.


Friday, 10 May 2013

The Contemporary Doomsday Book is out!

"Reading is equivalent to thinking with someone else's head instead of with one's own" - Arthur Schopenhauer 
So the long awaited library consultation report to the neighbourhood scrutiny committee was published on Thursday. It is a mammoth 164 page document of 9MB in size, which is why I've been somewhat quiet. Unsurprisingly, I've been doing what all good library users do. I've been engrossed reading it before the weekend. For what it is worth, I am shocked at the poor quality of the analysis and together with the rest of the campaigns around Manchester, I am shocked at the rhetoric.

For those who've got to know me over this campaign period, they will immediately know I am a numbers guy. Whilst a lot of people tend to bracket "lies, damn lies and statistics" together, the truth is that statistics do not actually do the lying. It's the interpreters of those statistics that do. This document is an example of just such a thing. Of course, being a guy who's not afraid of an intellectual 'punch up', I am going to give my reasons bit by starting with the below, but suffice to say that even the work submitted by the Save Burnage Library campaign is more solid than the MCC analysis conducted here, even without MCC giving the campaign all the information it needs.

Viability and Needs Analysis (or as I like to call it "This analysis isn't Viable, we Need better analysis!")

Appendix 7 of the document is probably one of the worst examples of a document that's full of statistical biasing I have ever come across. Here are some reasons as to why (the list of things wrong with this report and the corroborating data is so large, I'd never get it out in one go, hence the splitting of it into chunks).

The report consistently refers to taking account of the Charteris enquiry. Note, these variates (the columns across the top) are not actually specified within Charteris at all. 6.17, 6.26, 6.27 show the sorts of evidence that Charteris would have expected to occur within an effective assessment of local need. Manchester City Council's assessment (Appendix 7) is shown below (click the image for a larger version)

fig 1 - MLIS Viability and Needs Analysis (click to zoom)
This analysis was the major evaluation cited at the beginning of the report, which selected the six libraries set for closure. Aside from the fact that the equality impact assessment is not cited here, yet this analysis was stated as the main reason for choosing the 6 libraries, the things that also struck me immediately were the fact that they were using a combination of:
  • Ranking system (notoriously inaccurate, since there may be a massive disparity between actual values, but they will not necessarily rank that far apart. Hence, some will 'over perform' overall)
  • High/Low ranking - Where the values were ranked differently across the board. In itself this isn't a problem until you consider...
  • The combined score is simply a sum of the ranks and a selection of the lowest ranking performers by this combined value. Given the 'flipping' between ranking high/low based upon this can be unsound.
For those that have a solid analytical background, this should immediately ring alarm bells and send you looking for more. So I got my spade and started digging.

The ranking for Total library visits, Total active user rank and PC usage were all based on the aggregate results per library. What I mean by that is in a scenarios where two Districts A and B, which have a catchment area of 30,000 and 10,000 people respectively, have total library visits of say, 2,000 and 1,000 respectively, District A will rank higher than B, despite the fact that library usage is 6.7% and 10% respectively. This means the council's statements about considering library usage in a catchment, are simply false. 

I constructed a correlation matrix between the factors on the columns at the top of their analysis. In simple terms, a correlation matrix is a grid where each cell effectively tells you how similar the factors along the columns are, relative to the factors along the rows. High positive or negative numbers mean that the factors are very definitely related to each other. High positive numbers mean that as a variable (in this case rank) increases so the other variable increases. A negative number means if the ranking increases, the other value decreases. This sort of matrix can tell you a tonne of stuff, including how similar columns actually are to to each other The assumption that MCC put to us in this report is that it was a fair assessment and as such, 'Total library visits', '...user ranking' and PC usage (in hours) were not correlated to the combined score (which was the important factor). The image below shows my correlation matrix snipped from Excel. Again, click the image to expand it.

fig 2 - Correlation matrix (click to zoom)

Correlations and anti-correlations? Who are they? 

OK, a lesson in these 'correlations'. The darker the red, the greater the positive correlation. The darker the blue, the greater the negative correlation (aka anti-correlation). Any column containing any of the darkest reds can pretty much be considered to be identical. To illustrate that, look along the diagonal from top left to bottom right. The first element is examining 'population of catchment area' long the top against itself along the left. You'd expect that to be the same and sure enough, it has a value of 1 (i.e. 100% which is as high as you can go in correlations and that means they are 100% the same). Anything over 50% is considered very strongly to hint at the existence of a 'dependent factor' and anything over 80% is pretty much the the same variable, just in a different form such as a dependent variable. 

For a really basic example of what a dependent variable is, the distance a car travels in an hour is a 'dependent variable' based on the independent variables of its speed and time. So in a constant two hours, a selection of cars travelling at 10, 20 30 and 50mph will travel around 20, 40, 60 and 100 miles. As the independent variable of speed increases, so does the dependent variable of distance. 

You can rearrange most equations to change the dependent variable. For example, if you have been given distances travelled in 2 hours, you can find the average speed by dividing the now dependent variable of speed by the independent variable of distance. In our analysis, if the matrix is what is known as 'symmetrical' (i.e. if you 'flip' the matrix along the top left to bottom right diagonal, does it look the same?), then you can rearrange the independent and dependent variables this way. 

Basically, I was looking for those tell-tale signs and in this case, the dark reds give me that.

Well, what do you know[?]

The important things on the above correlation matrix are as follows:
  1. Population of the library catchment area is strongly correlated with the total number of library visitors, Total active user ranking, PC usage and building performance.
  2. Population of the library catchment area, Total number of library visitors, Total active user ranking and PC usage are basically the same variable! This is corroborated because of the clump of red right in the middle, which shows the variables are also almost identical to each other, never mind just the catchment area population. For example, you will have a high active user rank if you have a high number of users that's basically common sense. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck...  
  3. The impact of this same variable on the results effectively weights the analysis massively in favour of the larger library catchment areas and wholly against the neighbourhood libraries
  4. Neighbourhood libraries then get a further kick in the groin because they don't have access to venues to hold sessions or events. This causes a selection bias in the sample, since you are automatically excluding libraries from the top rankings which can't host events due to H&S legislation.or otherwise having no room. Note in the link in this point it states "If the selection bias is not taken into account then certain conclusions drawn may be wrong."
  5. This is corroborated when you look at the correlation between the combined score and the population of the library catchment area. This is the kick in the teeth, an 88.77% correlation! You pretty much cant get any closer than that in this sample size.
It gets worse than that. The first principles of the method are fundamentally flawed, so consequentially the resulting analysis is fundamentally flawed. In data processing, this causes us to go GIGO, or "Garbage-In, Garbage-Out". In this case, nothing says that more than the building performance correlation. To quote the MCC document at the bottom of that column:

"rank 1 = low score means building has had high level of refurbishment / new build so higher viability as less work required"

Well, for those who work in the building trade or have some understanding of civil/structural engineering, they know this simply isn't true. The way this ranks libraries means that if a library is undergoing ongoing refurbishment work, then it will have a higher ranking due to more recent work. Low maintenance buildings will have a lower ranking. As a result, it is possible for 'money pits' (buildings which have had a whole host of maintenance work conducted) to rank higher than solid, low maintenance buildings, which if we look at MCC's premises cost figures (Appendix 6), show us that the top 10 lowest maintenance libraries have been:
  1. Barlow Moor
  2. Northenden
  3. Brooklands
  4. Burnage
  5. Hulme
  6. Levenshulme
  7. Moss Side Powerhouse
  8. New Moston
  9. Newton Heath
  10. Withington
So even MCC's own report has contradicted itself (as these rankings are completely different to the Viability/Needs analysis rankings in Appendix 7). However, you could argue that the ranking should take into account the size of the building, which is technically correct. So shouldn't the 'Green Quadrant' in the middle of Appendix 7's viability and needs assessment also take into account catchment area size? You know MCC, like maintenance cost per square foot like total library active use per head maybe? Does MCC see the parallel?

This is yet another example to me of MCC conducting a poor analysis. It brings back into question statements made previously by cllr Sue Murphy about how they planned for closing lunchtime opening hours and were surprised by the drop in service uptake. From this analysis alone, I am not convinced they have the statistical know-how to make that sort of decision in the first place and come to that conclusion. 

So what should the table look like?

MCC need to do a lot more work, especially around the assessment criteria. However, even if we allow the rest of the variables to exist ranked as is, we need to adjust by the 'Green Quadrant' population to get a fair comparison for smaller catchment area. If we do this, 13 libraries change rank. Two of the libraries slated for closure come out of the relegation zone altogether to be replaced by two more. This adjusted analysis is shown below and the blue bars illustrate MCC's previous relegation zone (since Barlow Moor Library's funding has been withdrawn and Hulme Library will move to the leisure centre). Basically, from this alone, MCC's method is unsound.

fig 3 - Quadrant adjustment for population catchment area size (click to zoom)

*** EDIT: 11/05/2013 ***
In theory, when you see a variable have such a massive influence, this needs to be adjusted across the board.  The Save Burnage Library campaign reports never claimed a requirement for blanket coverage across the city (as stated on page 21, point 8.5). The adjustments were conducted to be able to compare like-with-like based on catchment population size. Indeed, I would go so far as to say column 1 in Appendix 7 the MCC report should have no direct bearing on the final result, since the information it brings is implicitly included in the analysis as part of the adjusted columns mentioned above. Following on from the fig 3 above, to turn this into a table:
fig 4 - The change in ranking when direct effects of catchment area size are removed.

In total, some libraries have moved 11 places up the rankings! Miles Platting (11), Crumpsall (6), Brooklands (5), Northenden (5) and Fallowfield (4)  in particular have moved significant steps up the ranks. In this arena, of the two libraries in "Newton Heath and Miles Platting" ward, they are closing the one which is better used per head of population.

*** END OF EDIT ***


As a numbers guy, I am shocked! Truly shocked! Reading along the bottom row (or rightmost column) to determine what factors MCC really used and to put it in political rhetoric that MCC should understand, the low correlation of the combined score with any other factors aside from the positively correlated ones, are truly saying to the people of Manchester, when it comes to libraries:

  • MCC don't care about our young people
  • MCC don't care about local deprivation
  • MCC they don't care about libraries existing within 1.5 miles (that was just a decoy) and 
  • MCC don't care about how much each library visit costs
t's all about the catchment area. I am inclined to believe others who say we'll be subsidising the more affluent areas of the city. I have never ever come across a document from an allegedly professional organisation which has produced a statistical model to fit the conclusion they want. If ever there was one, it is this. I am absolutely disgusted with it!

I call upon the neighbourhood scrutiny committee to return the consultation report for further work on the grounds that from this alone, MCC is not setting out on it's own success criteria. There are a number of other areas which I will address over the next few days.

Take note MCC, I have a fine toothed comb and I work quickly. 


Thursday, 18 April 2013

Last Instalment in the Trilogy - Library Use

"It's shortsighted not to view the education of a future generation of Americans as a priority for all Americans."- Mel Martinez

The final analysis document submitted to the city council's consultation as part of the Save Burnage Library campaign was the 'Library Use and Value for Money Metrics' document found at:

For the 2008 library strategy, Manchester city council's Library and Information Services (MLIS) included a number of actions and metrics which were used to indicate the value for money that Manchester City Council was getting per transaction (issues and reissues, PC use etc.).

The Save Burnage Library campaign conducted a similar assessment and what is interesting is that when the comparators are applied to Burnage Library individually, a number of factors can be see:

  1. If we look at library use per 1,000 head of population, Manchester city council are not closing the bottom 6 worst performers. Nor are they closing the top 6 most expensive. Indeed, 3 of the 6 that are set to close are in the top 10 best performers whilst only 1 is in the bottom 10.
  2. Looking at the cost per transaction, which is how many pounds it costs Manchester city council per individual borrowing of a book. We know that Burnage Library costs £43,000 to run and in 2012 there were 45,346 transactions (again, including PC usage, issues and resissues etc). This means that each borrow of a book costs Manchester city council around 95p per transaction for someone to Borrow a book in Burnage library. Contrast this with the Manchester average from MLIS's own library strategy, and we can see this is incredibly good value, since the Manchester average in 2005-06 is £1.55
  3. Using Manchester City Council’s own indicators of ‘value for money’ defined by MLIS for the 2008 library strategy, closing Burnage library will not result in greater value for money across MLIS. Indeed, it will cost more per transaction. Each transaction costing £1.57 instead of £1.55 just by closing Burnage library alone! This is because MCC are closing some of the best performing libraries, leaving the worse performing libraries open.
  4. Burnage Library is the 9th most used library per 1,000 head of population in the 23 active libraries of Manchester. So any statements about Burnage being a low performing library are simply false. 
  5. The top 10 list of library utilisation is made up of 3 libraries set to close under the proposals. 
  6. The bottom 10 performers (when measured using borrowing) only include one library set to close
  7. An example top 10 list of library utilisation, with standardised opening times (to 35 hours a week), includes 4 of the libraries set to close and Burnage would be the 4th most used library in that list.
  8. Steps could be taken to generate an extra £109,622 of income from standardising Blu-ray and DVD charges, as well as increasing AV stock lending fees by 50p.
I for one sincerely hope Manchester city council reconsider their plans and keep Burnage library open. The combination of the three impact analyses on transport, literacy and neighbourhoods and this analysis on value for money, you can see Manchester City Council would make a catastrophic mistake by closing neighbourhood libraries. 


Tuesday, 9 April 2013

AgeUK Internet Champion 2013 backs Save Burnage Library Campaigners

"Today a reader, tomorrow a leader." - Margaret Fuller

Janet Tachamani, co-winner of AgeUK Internet Champion award for 2013, seen below with June Whitfield after received the award, was approached by campaigners for the Save Burnage Library Campaign and told of the plight of the library.

Amongst many noble things, Janet is also a 2011 Asham Prize Award winning short story writer and ex English teacher who has very kindly thrown her weight behind our campaign by championing the Save Burnage library campaign. She has written an article on her personal blog about our library.

Janet Tchamani, co-winner of AgeUK's Internet Champion Award 2013
seen here with June Whitfield

To quote Janet:
"One of the signs - so say the historians and philosophers - of a bankrupt civilisation is the destruction of libraries. Faced with forced (?) cuts to services, local authorities are seeing library closures as 'easy cuts' and one of the intended victims is Burnage Library (Manchester)."
We here in Burnage couldn't agree more!

There are some 5.2 million older residents of the UK who have never been on-line. This brings to our society a digital divide that may see increasingly more people socially isolated as more and more function is performed on-line and those citizens find themselves digitally excluded. The closure of libraries will mean that this already disadvantaged group of residents, who do not always have anywhere to turn will be disproportionately affected by the closure of Burnage Library in this regard.

Janet Tchamani, we both thank you from the bottom of our hearts and salute you for the support you bring to our campaign!

Save Burnage Library