Sunday, October 04, 2009

Wirral council rescinds library closures

On June 12th I posted on Alan Gibbons' 'Campaign for the Book'. Here's the latest from Alan on attempts to close libraries. Looks like Alan and his fellow campaigners have won a victory … for the time being at least! Well done to them!

Below is a portion of Alan’s campaign email. You can read more on Alan’s blog.

Wirral council rescinds library closures
In a surprise move, Wirral's Labour/Lib Dem council has backtracked on its proposal to close eleven of its libraries, some half its branch network. This is a major victory for local residents, librarians, library users, trade unionists and campaigners. A council which refused to budge from an ill-considered piece of philistinism has been forced to think again.
Many will point to Andy Burnham's decision to invoke the 1964 Libraries Act and call for an inquiry. We should remember that this didn’t come out of the blue. At first Burnham was 'not minded' to intervene. But there were protest meetings attended by hundreds of angry local residents, marches, lobbies and letter-writing campaigns. Quite simply, it was popular pressure that forced the re-think.
Though everyone who has been fighting the Wirral closures is delighted with this development, we should strike a note of caution. The council leadership issued an extremely mealy-mouthed statement regretting the fact that it had been forced to retreat.
This is what council leader Steve Foulkes had to say:
"We firmly believe that our initial decision to invest £20m in the modernisation of our library service and the creation of 13 Neighbourhood centres was the right decision for the future of Wirral."
The Department of Culture, Media and Sport seems disturbed that the council has done a volte face before the publication of Sue Charteris' report on the issue and is reviewing the situation, considering whether the council has acted legally.
In an offensive article in Saturday's Liverpool Echo local Labour MP Frank Field characterized the U-turn as a 'defeat for local residents'. He even dared ask where campaigners would like cuts to fall on other services! I have just written to the Echo reminding Mr Field that local campaigners have often stood united with those fighting cuts in other sectors. His chutzpah is staggering.
Until the Charteris report is published and the cuts finally consigned to the dustbin of history, none of us should be complacent. The pressures on the public purse that led Wirral to take the action in the first place have not gone away. There is talk many of community libraries being under threat nationally. Wirral shows protest can have a profound effect but our resistance has only just begun.


In case you didn't know, Alan is the writer of some fantastic children's books. My favourite is the Shadow of the Minotaur, a gripping read that links modern technology to Greek myth.

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