Wrexham Council scraps plans to outsource libraries

Get Reading : 11th July
Bracknell budget: £6 million cuts likely 
“We have a statutory obligation to run a library service, but what is a statutory library service? Is it one room or nine libraries?”

Shirley Burnham comments:

Councillor Heydon says:   “We have a statutory obligation to run a library service, but what is a statutory library service? Is it one room or nine libraries?”

It baffles me that he has not clarified this with the council’s legal folk, scrutinised precedent, or even approached the DCMS in London for clarification.   What a disaster for the future of any library Service that elected members can baldly and boldly express such ignorance.   People are horrified when a wonderful, professional library service which inspires social cohesion and is key to academic achievement, literacy and wellbeing is relegated to the level of garden waste, toilets and bins.  But alas, such is the level to which nowadays our representatives have sunk.

Good luck, people!   Keep fighting for and saving your public libraries.

Get Reading : 11th July
Reading libraries: none will close but opening hours will be cut


Barry Today: 10th July
Vale of Glamorgan | Barry library to be upgraded to learning hub



Swindon Advertiser : 8th July
Let’s create innovative library service says Leader, David  Renard


Blackpool Gazette : 8th July
Letter | LIBRARIES – Politicians should be careful with our cash
from UKIP candidate


Brixton Blog : 8th July
Lambeth library campaigners summon ghosts of Carnegie past
Anniversary protest tomorrow


North Somerset Times : 8th July
Consultation on closure and merger of North Somerset libraries & children’s centres

Coventry Telegraph : 7th July
Coventry libraries will be ‘devastated’ by cuts say leading children’s authors

Accrington Observer : 7th July
Lancashire | Council grants £10,000 to help save under-threat Hyndburn libraries

Guardian Series : 7th July
Waltham Forest | Plans to relocate libraries put forward to council cabinet

Local Government Lawyer : 7th July
Local government to have seat at Brexit negotiating table, says Communities Secretary
The response to leaving the European Union “has to be a radically expanded role for local government”, the Communities Secretary has said.


Local Government Lawyer : 30th June
Consultation in austerity 2016: a practical guide
“The key issue is that changes in policy must be made in the light of being informed by consultation”


ITV News : 7th July
Campaign as Swindon Council plans to cut 75% of its libraries

Fresh plans to cut 22 more libraries across England emerge

This Is Wiltshire : 6th July
Swindon | Libraries strategy meets with concern from campaigners & councillors

Northants Herald & Post : 7th July
Northamptonshire mobile library service is a reading lifeline throughout the county

Young man speaks up for Swindon libraries at the recent Save Swindon Libraries meeting – Image Elizabeth Ash



Swindon Advertiser : 6th July
Council to cut 11 out of 15 libraries within next 12 months

BBC News : 6th July
Protests over closure plans for Coventry libraries

Coventry Telegraph : 5th July
Several libraries could close if community groups cannot be found to run them

Chronicle Live : 6th July
Six Gateshead Libraries face uncertain future as council considers fresh cuts

York Press : 6th July
Library to shut due to fears over building’s safety

Accrington Observer : 6th July
Lancashire | Julie Hesmondhalgh letter pays tribute to our under-threat libraries
Alan Gibbons addresses a meeting held by Save Swindon Libraries - Photo by Elizabeth Ash
Alan Gibbons speaking at a meeting held by Save Swindon Libraries – L-R Paul Cornell, Jake Arnott, Sarah Church – of Save Swindon Libraries, Alan Gibbons, Shirley Burnham – of Save Swindon Libraries Photo by Elizabeth Ash

Public Libraries News: 5th July
Editorial | The Big Friendly Success: Here comes the Summer Reading Challenge 2016

Coventry Observer : 5th July
10 libraries + kids centres and youth clubs face Coventry council cuts axe

Morning Star : 5th July
84 Greenwich Library Workers Battle To Save Books For Kids

Save Lewisham Libraries
Lewisham library workers strike

Ledbury Reporter : 5th July
Hereford New library consultation prompts fears of further cuts

Dudley News : 5th July
Dudley borough’s library opening times slashed by more than 100 hours

St Helens Star : 5th July
Libraries’ arts programme backed by Johnny Vegas shortlisted for award

The Courier : 5th July
Fight to save Fife libraries continuing

Image by Samantha Galbraith (@sgalbraith47) used with permission. Contact the artist at to orders or inquiries.
Image by Samantha Galbraith (@sgalbraith47) used with permission.
Contact the artist at to orders or inquiries.

Children’s literacy – the gateway to future employment – could be under threat if Greenwich council ploughs ahead with plans to close the borough’s mobile library service, which delivers 33,000 books a year to children.

The warning has come from Unite, the country’s largest union, which said that it is embarking on a campaign of industrial action to save the service as councillors are set to debate the proposal at the council’s cabinet on Wednesday 22 June.

Unite said that scrapping the mobile library service will lead to an annual £126,000 in so-called ‘efficiency savings’; despite the council having £320 million in its reserves.

Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said,

“The £126,000 figure is a drop in the ocean compared with the benefits to children’s literacy and reading ability, which are the keys to obtaining decent employment in the future. 

Depriving kids of 33,000 books and a chance to fall in love with reading are retrograde steps. Parents should be very worried at what is planned. 

We believe that the council is being short-sighted and its claim that all the borough’s schools are in walking distance to one of Greenwich’s 12 static libraries is unrealistic, given the busy school day and demands on teachers. 

We call on the council to rethink its plans to close the mobile library, then to review the position after 12 months. If it is shut down, it will never reopen.

Instead, the council should renew the mobile service for another year and engage in genuine discussion with schools and our library members on ways to address any concerns the council has.” 

Unite will be addressing the cabinet meeting on 22 June at Woolwich Town Hall, Wellington Street SE18 6HQ. The meeting will also be lobbied from 18.00. A further lobby will take place on Wednesday 29 June when the full council meets from 18.00. 

Unite’s 84 library members already staged four days of strike action earlier this year – and have a legal mandate for more industrial action. The dates for this renewed action will be announced soon.

The closure recommendation comes despite a petition of more than 1,000 signatures opposing the proposals and no clear support for the proposals in the council’s own consultation exercise.

Onay Kasab added,

“The council’s report to the cabinet is littered with untruths. It states that there is a library near every school – clearly not the case as a simple glance at a map shows.

The report claims that book issues have decreased – again this is wrong as book issues for school children have increased from 22,000 a year to 33,000 annually.” 

The mobile library visits schools, nurseries and children’s centres for those who are unable to visit static libraries.

Access for the frail and those with mobility difficulties could also be impacted, as it may isolate them and take their independence away – the mobile library is a community lifeline. 

The libraries are run by Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL) as a so-called social enterprise set up by Greenwich council to run its leisure services.

Unite said that 75 per cent of GLL’s staff are on zero hour contracts and it refuses to pay the London ‘living wage’ of £9.40 per hour to staff who work in the leisure side of the business.

Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 13.03.40

New from CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals) – the CILIP Library Fund, a ‘new initiative to support UK libraries and information services’.

CILIP says,

‘The Library Fund, which will not replace or duplicate core public funding for libraries, has been kick-started with a £10,000 investment. During 2016 and 2017, CILIP will implement a UK-wide crowdfunding campaign for individuals and companies to build up the Fund with the aim of creating a new Grants Programme from 2018.

‘The intention is to support a range of projects and activities that improve access to information and knowledge, literacy, health, digital inclusion and life chances.’

Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 11.30.00

The Library Campaign says,

‘Good luck to CILIP – but this initiative just nibbles at the edges.

‘The whole public libraries situation is crazy. The DCMS pretends everything is fine. Many local councils have no clue how vital an investment libraries are.

‘The Taskforce does – but takes permanent under-funding as a given. Arts Council England has a few millions for libraries – but only for non-library arts activities.

‘Now we have CILIP passing round the hat, adding to the mish-mash of bits of funding for libraries from various foundations and grant-givers. Libraries need more than this.’

Nick Poole, CILIP Chief Executive, said,Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 23.08.38

‘I’m thrilled to launch the CILIP Library Fund. There is so much support amongst the public, creative industries and businesses for the transformative services our sector provides. Until now there hasn’t been a way for our supporters to help libraries provide additional services and activities that improve life chances and create a better society.

‘Libraries and information services in the public, private and third sectors make communities stronger, support research and innovation, and help businesses grow. Now our supporters can be part of the difference that we make.’

The CILIP Library Fund will be open to applications from all parts of the information, knowledge and library sector. Applications will open in early 2018. The Fund will not be used to replace core funding for public libraries or other statutory services.

CILIP will fundraise through crowdfunding, encouraging legacies and corporate giving. Supporters will be able to plan and implement their own fundraising activities to contribute to the Library Fund.

We’d love to know your thoughts…

Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 23.08.38

Do you have images of libraries and library users undertaking activities in libraries that we could use on our website, publicity materials and our magazine?  If so, please get in touch.

Email images to

If you are happy for us to share the images with library campaign and friends groups also, please let us know.


Time is running out for so many public libraries. A plea to you who are members of SCL, ACE and DCMS!

The annual SCL Seminar is due to take place on 9 and 10 June 2016 and will include the annual behind closed doors speech by the Minister, Ed Vaizey.

No doubt those attending the seminar will be told that the public library service is in good health and that campaigners fail to recognise the efforts of the DCMS, the Taskforce, ACE and the SCL, including completing the roll out of Wi-Fi, the issuing of guidance for volunteer run libraries and yet another consultation exercise on libraries, entitled Ambition for Libraries.

No doubt all these bodies have been working hard but perhaps those invited to the seminar need to question how effective the efforts of the Taskforce and its partners have actually been?

Should we not be very concerned that the number of library visitors, according to Government sponsored research, has declined by 29.7% since 2005?

Should we be concerned that, according to BBC research, 343 libraries have closed in the past four years, that another 100 are earmarked for closure, and that 8,000 jobs have been lost?

Should we be concerned that there seems to be no sign after more than fifteen months of the Taskforce producing a plan to re-invigorate the library network? Is it really true that the sector is in good health as some would lead us to believe?

May I suggest that we should be sending a message to those attending the SCL seminar that they need to take an honest, hard look at the challenges faced by public libraries in England, and focus on solutions that benefit those for whom libraries exist to serve.
And I hope that the SCL leadership will recognise the frustration and anger across the country as thousands of people have found it necessary to campaign to save their local library. I say that with considerable feeling as my local authority has just confirmed its plans to close 29 of its 73 libraries.

This seminar, largely funded by public funds, should not be another opportunity to meet colleagues, to enjoy a good dinner and sit back and listen to the Minister and the Taskforce CE. It should be taken as a real opportunity to grasp the issues and find answers before the service is further damaged, more libraries are closed or transferred to volunteers, more jobs are cut and more library users walk away. There is a need for some very tough talking.

Frances Hendrix

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 11.12.48

Lancashire County Council are proposing, subject to further consultation, the reorganisation of its library service (currently 73 libraries).  A summary of what the reorganisation entails is to be found in the Appendix to this note but, in short, it involves the total closure of 29 branch libraries and reduction of seven others to self-service status, retaining only 37 (including the central library in Preston) as fully staffed.

The council is facing severe financial pressure, particularly in the areas of adult social care and waste management, and it is not the purpose of this note to suggest that additional money should be found to fund the library service. On the contrary, it is accepted that cost-effective solutions need to be found to meet the demands of financing a “comprehensive and efficient” service for all who wish to use it, as required by the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 having regard in particular to the guidance on how such reorganisations should be structured set out in the report of the inquiry in the Wirral case.

There are alternatives to closures (with or without handing over branches to groups of volunteers) which will enable the service to continue (perhaps with closures of a relatively small number of non-viable branches) in a form which complies with the Act rather than adopting a fragmented and necessarily less cost-efficient solution. Unfortunately, it does not appear that the council is looking for such alternatives but rather seems to be wedded to proposals structured around a property-based assessment (a way of proceeding which violates the spirit of the Wirral report) and involving massive closures, an approach which will almost certainly lead to a challenge (by judicial review) to the decision on the grounds that the consultation has been a sham (because the issue has been predetermined) and/or a request to the DCMS for intervention (by the direction of a local inquiry).   Every reasonable effort should be made to avoid the resolution of this matter proceeding down adversarial paths which would be a costly, time-consuming and generally a negative way to go.

By way of examples of possible (and not mutually exclusive) alternatives, the following need to be considered:

  • Sharing the delivery of the service with other councils – close examination ought to be undertaken of the steps being taken in Greater Manchester towards the creation of single service in place of those provided by the individual boroughs;
  • Appointing an outside entity to deliver the service – the use of a mutual to manage Devon’s libraries (without closures being required) warrants scrutiny and the carrying out of a market test via a tendering process (as Bromley and Bexley councils have recently done) to ascertain whether there might be interest in taking on the service as a whole, which is surely preferable to the fragmentation inherent in such approaches as individual community interest companies, and
  • Seeking out whether there is room for internal efficiency improvements, notably in the way staff are deployed and timetabled and potentially with a targeted and planned usage of volunteers in smaller libraries: see the report prepared for Sutton Council which has enabled the preservation (with the closure of only one small branch and a mobile) of the service, at a greatly reduced cost.

[See Appendix for useful contacts and links in relation to the above-mentioned alternatives].

If legal challenge is to be avoided, the council will have to explain in the final consultation documents what has been done by way of examination (with an open mind) of potential alternatives. The onus is clearly on the council to do so. Yet there is no evident sign of a range of options having been put in front of elected Members to inform what is a very difficult decision. The council is still required to fulfil its duty of Best Value as described by the DCLG in 2011:

“The Duty of Best Value is important because it makes clear that councils should consider overall value – including social value – when considering service provision.” If it is still intent on pursuing a course of closures and a handing over of public assets, in the form of IT, book stock, shelving, furniture and equipment and potentially buildings, it needs to explain why the alternatives have been rejected and why it considers that the residual service will remain compliant with its statutory duty, its Equality duty and Best Value in service specification, and will, therefore, withstand a request for intervention by the DCMS.

Library services are well-recognised as important in many aspects, ranging from the advancement of literacy (orthodox and digital) to the economic value which they add to communities over and above their cost (see Appendix). They should not be the target of closures in the name of ‘quick fix’ and short-sighted costs-saving if costs can be saved without recourse to the axe and through the exercise of intelligent and strategic thinking.


Summary of Lancashire County Council’s proposed reorganisation of the library service:

The proposals for libraries are to reduce the number of fixed locations where people can access libraries from 73 to 44. It is proposed that 37 of these will offer a fully staffed service and seven will be ‘satellite’ libraries which are not staffed, but where people can use self-service counters to collect books which they have reserved and return books. This will be supported by the county council’s mobile library service (six vehicles operating 68 routes and 792 stops), home library service (which currently delivers books to 1,000 people at home) and virtual library services, which allows people to access e-books, e-audiobooks, and online reference service.

Wirral report (2009)

Greater Manchester – the creation of a single service is work in progress but the stage has been reached of moving towards unified borrowing facilities (note involvement of Blackburn)

Devon Libraries – as of 1st April 2016, the county’s library service has been provided by a staff and community owned social enterprise.

[suggested contact:]

Dudley has also decided to pursue the mutual approach – [contact unknown]

York library services have been delivered by a mutual for two years, with the Cabinet Office providing some funding.

(contact: Fiona Williams)

Suffolk has formed an IPS

(contact: Alison Wheeler)

Sutton Council – contact: Madeline Barratt, Head of Libraries, Heritage and Arts

Bexley and Bromley

Economic value of libraries – see Public Libraries News, where the economic case for libraries is set out by reference to studies and examples from the UK and worldwide, notably the British Library and Bolton Council’s Economic Valuation based on contingent valuation, a method measuring what people would be prepared to pay for services like libraries if they were not available.



To be clear: the purpose of this document is not to question the need to make savings; this is well understood. Nor is it about exempting library services from the Government’s overall deficit reduction strategy. It is about a re-consideration of the emerging approaches which PLAs are adopting, faced with exactly the same challenges Lancashire County Council is facing now.

Screen Shot 2015-10-26 at 17.47.13

George Hamerton, our junior reporter at the Speak Up for Libraries lobby, visited Carnegie Library in Herne Hill, Lambeth to lend his support.

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 11.14.15
George, on the steps of Carnegie Library, Herne Hill

George reports,

“On Wednesday 6th April, I visited the Carnegie Library in Herne Hill, to show my support for the campaigners who have been in the building for nearly a week. People are campaigning to keep the library open because the local council want to turn it into a gym. To show my support, I wrote a letter to tell them how I felt. What I didn’t know was that it would take 6 trains and over 3 hours to get there and back! Also, we couldn’t go until the afternoon as my mum was at work in the morning.

We walked to the library from the station and saw posters about the library in the windows of lots of houses. We finally arrived at the library at about 4.30pm. It is a beautiful building. I have never seen a library like it.

Outside, people were holding placards, and locals driving by tooted their car horns to show their support, as well as taxi drivers, ambulances and bus drivers. I found out that inside, there are occupiers of all ages including some ‘A’ level students who have nowhere else to study, and children younger than me.

Everyone was very friendly. People were arriving all the time, bringing supplies and flowers, and making sure the people inside were OK. I was told people from the local community and further away have brought supplies like food, bedding and toiletries. It was funny because they even gave me some juice and made my mum a cup of tea after our long journey! Then a man arrived asking if the occupiers knew that a camera had been put up on the street corner facing the back entrance of the library. Later two policemen came to make sure everyone was OK.

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 11.12.48
11-year-old George, with Laura Swaffield, Chair of The Library Campaign, who is one of those occupying the Carnegie Library

I was surprised that some people recognised me from the time I spoke at the Speak Up For Libraries rally in February. Laura Swaffield came out to the railings at the front of the library. She told me ‘We are really buoyed up by the support we are getting’. She also told me how the occupation started, with about 80 people after the library closed last Thursday. At first, people could leave the building to go home and come back but by last Friday the council said they had to stop, so now when a person leaves the library, they cannot come back in. There are now about 20 people inside.

I spoke to some local residents outside the library. One is a retired teacher and she used to bring her classes to the Carnegie Library, then her own children and grandchildren. She said the library is a ‘hub of the community’. Another lady told me she spent the first night in the library but after she went home to rest, she wasn’t allowed back in so now she stands outside every day.   She told me ’the library is used by every age group for studies, for warmth, and events’ She told me about the community spirit. She also said that other local libraries are full of people studying. If more libraries close, where will these students go?

Before we left, the occupiers made an announcement about a march taking place this Saturday, starting at 11.30am from the Carnegie Library. They said ‘you are welcome to come and bring friends and family’. They chanted ‘March with us on Saturday. Libraries are here to stay!’

I felt moved when I saw how much the library means to the people of Herne Hill.”

Listen to George read his letter of support….

LGA : 4th April
Councils defend ‘difficult’ service spending cuts

LGA : 4th April
Councils issuing thousands of ‘gagging orders’ suggest figures

Brixton Buzz : 4th April
Lambeth issues possession order as Carnegie Library campaigners stand firm on Day 5 of their occupation

Get Hampshire : 4th April
Stay of execution for Hampshire library services after decision on future put back to 2017

Northern Echo : 4th April
Campaigners to hold meeting to find imaginative ways of saving Darlington’s libraries

Lincolnshire Echo : 4th April
Under new management! Greenwich Leisure takes over 15 Lincolnshire libraries
which are those that remain after 30 handed over to volunteers

North London Today : 4th April
Barnet | ‘Children will be at risk if library staff are cut’§ionIs=news&searchyear=2016

This Is Local London : 4th April
Protesters fighting to save Barnet libraries will unite as councillors will decide on its future


Screen Shot 2016-04-02 at 15.47.42


At the beginning of the third day of occupying Carnegie Library there had still been no communication with Lambeth elected representatives except to tell them to leave. Lambeth Council is doing all it can to escalate the conflict around the peaceful, good humoured occupation of Carnegie Library, Herne Hill. Extra security guards under the instruction of Lambeth Council, with police, have been posted outside since lunchtime.

The security guards have now been instructed by the council to prevent anyone entering or re-entering the building. Around 80 people including 10 small children are inside the library. If they leave, they cannot return. They are effectively under siege.  The occupiers have also had to insist that the council do not lock the fire exit.

Screen Shot 2016-04-02 at 15.47.42
Meanwhile, a large crowd of local people, angry with the Council, is growing outside, Many of them had come for a public meeting, but found themselves excluded. The council is also seeking a court order to evict the occupiers but this cannot be served until Monday at the earliest. It has shown no interest in discussing campaigners’ concerns, emailed to them yesterday. The occupation will continue over the weekend. Louise Martin, a local resident said,
“This behaviour is shameful. Surely not all Labour councillors condone these actions”
The Library was condemned to close to be converted into a gym, alongside nearby Minet Library. The total cost of the gyms: £3m to install, plus £1m to shore up running expenses. Residents overwhelmingly oppose the destruction of their much used local libraries in favour of unwanted gyms. Dr Martin Heath, one of the campaigners stated,
“There is a need for a full investigation of Lambeth’s financial competence and also of its strange arrangements with Greenwich Leisure Limited.”

Screen Shot 2016-04-02 at 15.47.26
The campaign has sent Lambeth Council the following demands:

We, the people of Lambeth occupying the Carnegie Library, call on Lambeth Council:

1. To listen to the people they represent

2. To keep all Lambeth libraries fully open with professional library staff; the scrap their plans for closures and healthy living centres, and reverse their decision

3. To re-open the Carnegie and Minet Libraries with immediate effect, with all library staff, to continue to provide a full library service

4. To adopt the community/staff mutual plan which will keep all ten libraries fully operational as part of a full library service for the borough. This offers a creative, innovative solution in the face of cuts

5. To collaborate with all the Friends groups as set out in Lambeth policy

6. Not to transfer the Carnegie Library building, which was given for a library for the benefit of the community, to the ‘Carnegie Community Trust’ which does not represent the community.

Photo by Vivienne Lewis
Photo by Vivienne Lewis
2 April 2016
The usual chess club will go ahead, but this time, through the bars, at 2pm today.
At 3pm there will be a general gathering with performances outside the library.
The Dulwich Hamlet football team and fans will march by at 5pm.
And candles will be lit at 7pm.
Carnegie Library
188 Herne Hill Rd, London SE24 0AG
Bus P4 from Brixton stops outside, 68 and 468 from Herne Hill or West Norwood
Lambeth residents refused to leave Carnegie library, Herne Hill, Lambeth at 6pm 31st March when the library was due to close to be turned into a gym, with a much reduced “neighbourhood library” with no staff.

This is not a library.

Photo by Vivienne Lewis
Photo by Vivienne Lewis
Photo by Vivienne Lewis
Photo by Vivienne Lewis
The root cause is the council’s refusal properly to look at proposals from head of libraries, Susanna Barnes, to keep all the council’s 10 libraries running, while making all the savings required.
So – direct action is being taken, all in support of the role of librarian!
200 people stayed to read, socialise and sing.  A group of about 60 stayed all night.
Photo by Vivienne Lewis
Photo by Vivienne Lewis

The campaign has sent Lambeth Council the following demands:

We, the people of Lambeth occupying the Carnegie Library, call on Lambeth Council:

1. To listen to the people they represent

2. To keep all Lambeth libraries fully open with professional library staff; the scrap their plans for closures and healthy living centres, and reverse their decision

3. To re-open the Carnegie and Minet Libraries with immediate effect, with all library staff, to continue to provide a full library service

4. To adopt the community/staff mutual plan which will keep all ten libraries fully operational as part of a full library service for the borough. This offers a creative, innovative solution in the face of cuts

5. To collaborate with all the Friends groups as set out in Lambeth policy

6. Not to transfer the Carnegie Library building, which was given for a library for the benefit of the community, to the ‘Carnegie Community Trust’ which does not represent the community.

Photo by Vivienne Lewis
Photo by Vivienne Lewis
2 April 2016
The usual chess club will go ahead, but this time, through the bars, at 2pm today.
At 3pm there will be a general gathering with performances outside the library.
The Dulwich Hamlet football team and fans will march by at 5pm.
And candles will be lit at 7pm.
Carnegie Library
188 Herne Hill Rd, London SE24 0AG
Bus P4 from Brixton stops outside, 68 and 468 from Herne Hill or West Norwood

scroll down:
Letter | Sarah Church – Chair, Save Swindon’s Libraries
Don’t rely on library volunteers

Locals protest as benchpresses replace books

Protestors refuse to leave Herne Hill’s Carnegie Library 

BBC News : 1st April
Protesters occupy Lambeth library in bid to halt closure

Brixton Buzz : 1st April
Occupation of Lambeth’s Carnegie Library continues into second day

South London Today : 1st April
Lambeth | Library campaigners stage all-night protest against closure plans

Common Space : 1st April
Steve Topple: On libraries – Spineless politicians are cutting more than books

Shropshire Star : 1st April
‘Postcode lottery’ warning on future of Shropshire services
detailed report

Doncaster Free Press : 1st April
Doncaster libraries experience biggest drop in number of books being borrowed in England
The dramatic reduction follows a series of library closures and community groups being forced to takeover the running of most of the borough’s remaining libraries due to cuts in funding.

Photo by Vivienne Lewis
Photo by Vivienne Lewis

A long-standing Unite branch secretary has been subject to an alleged sustained campaign of bullying and discrimination by Conservative-controlled Bromley council, says Unite, the country’s largest union. 

Papers were served on the council today (Thursday 31 March) by Unite legal services’ panel solicitors Thompsons to answer the case that grandmother Kath Smith, branch secretary since 2011, was subject to concerted victimisation as she tried to carry out her legitimate trade union activities, while the authority embarked on a mass privatisation campaign.

The employment tribunal to hear the case is expected in the summer.

The case centres on:

  1. Acts of ongoing trade union victimisation.  Examples include refusing Ms Smith the right to stand at departmental elections – something she has done since the role was introduced a decade ago
  2. Repeated refusals for the right to time off in lieu when she is required to represent members on non-working days; failure to fix her phone and computer so as to prevent her from contacting/assisting members
  3. Breach of the right to take reasonable paid time off to carry out trade union duties and training in aspects of industrial relations  – this has happened on numerous occasions since the council removed full-time trade union facility time in June 2015 on the basis of alleged cost saving, despite Unite offering to pay for this
  4. Breach of the right to take reasonable unpaid time off to carry out trade union activities – again on numerous occasions since facility time was removed.
Kath Smith
Kath Smith

Unite said that these allegations have to be seen in the context that the council is fully committed to becoming a commissioning council and reducing the number of council employees from 4,000 to 300 – despite having £320 million in reserves.

The council’s latest target is the privatisation of 14 libraries, replacing staff with unpaid volunteers in six libraries and handing eight to a private company – the council is refusing to name the bidders for this contract.

The volunteers are being organised by Community Links Bromley and Unite activists will be staging the latest protest outside the company’s headquarters at Community House, South Street, Bromley BR1 1RH tomorrow (Friday 1 April) between 09.30 – 10.30.

Unite regional officer Onay Kasab says,

 “What we are witnessing is a sustained campaign of victimisation against Kath Smith, who has worked for the library service since 1997, for her legitimate trade union activities.

We believe that Kath has been singled out because of her brave stance against the council’s mass privatisation campaign which has already seen the parks service being outsourced. Libraries are next on the ‘hit’ list.

Unite is strongly committed, not only to defending our branch secretary, but our members working for the council and, more widely, the much-valued public services that the people of Bromley rely on.

We know that Community Links Bromley is working with the council to introduce volunteers at libraries. This has elicited a harsh response from the council – including attacks on our branch secretary. The protests will now be developed to be bigger and even more effective – for instance, we will look at publicity stunts like authors doing outdoor book readings.

We also intend to contact the not for profit organisations affiliated to the company in question and prepare protests outside their buildings too. Further dates will be set for industrial action to coincide with the protests.”

Unite legal officer Nicky Marcus says,

 “Unite legal services will do all that has to be done to support Kath and to prevent victimisation of our representatives.

“All of our members, but most particularly our representatives should understand the level of support that Unite legal services will offer when our members and representatives come under attack for carrying out their normal trade union activities.” 

What is happening in Bromley comes against the backdrop of a Fair Deal For Local Government campaign by Unite’s London and Eastern region which has almost 300,000 members. The campaign is aimed against privatisation and austerity in local government.

The campaign is a set of proposals that Unite is putting to councils in the region. It is a procurement strategy to ensure that quality services are maintained and that there is no ‘race to the bottom’ for pay and conditions post any transfer.

Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 13.03.40

4-6pm, celebration party at Carnegie – to mark determination to fight on.

6pm til late – candle-lit vigil at Carnegie AND ALSO NEARBY MINET
LIBRARY, also doomed to close from April 1.

Lambeth will immediately mount 24/7 security to keep out people who
want to use the libraries, adding further costs to their crazy plans
to spend £4 on installing and supporting unwanted GYMS in both

Amit Lennon - shows people using "under-used" (according to Lambeth council) Carnegie Library in Lambeth over 3 hours on an ordinary Friday ,18 March 2016.
Amit Lennon – shows people using “under-used” (according
to Lambeth council) Carnegie Library in Lambeth over 3 hours on an
ordinary Friday ,18 March 2016.
Carnegie Library
188 Herne Hill Rd, London SE24 0AG
Bus P4 from Brixton stops outside, 68 and 468 from Herne Hill or West Norwood
Minet Library
52 Knatchbull Rd, London SE5 9QY
P5 from Acre Lane(near McDonald’s); any of the buses from Brixton to
Oval such as 3, get off at Loughborough Road and walk through or 436,
36 or 185 from Oval towards Camberwell, get off at Coop and 5 minute
walk through Myatt’s Fields Park



  1.          BACKGROUND
  5.          GROWTH OF SWINDON
  7.          COSTS AND BENEFITS


1.  Background

Swindon was one of the last communities of any size in England to adopt the Public Libraries Acts that pre-dated current legislation.  Swindon opened its first public library on 16th August 1943 in the middle of World War II and extreme economic hardship.  It might be observed that priorities and principles differed markedly at that time from the ideology espoused by government today.


1.1 Current Library Provision in Swindon

Swindon is currently served by a central library and 14 further public libraries, plus a mobile library service.  The Borough Council’s recent draft budget contemplates a cut of 65% to Libraries by 2020 and the divestment of most/all of its libraries to Parishes and community groups – which, it should be noted, are not Library Authorities for the purpose of the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964.


1.2 Our High-Performance Library Service

The latest CIPFA data reveals that 1,049,172 people visited Swindon Libraries between April 2014 and March 2015.  Further analysis also reveals that Swindon came 17th out of 204 councils with regard to ‘library performance’ and ranked in third place for the number of active borrowers per 1,000 of population (out of 16 comparator authorities graded on “engaging with the public”).  These are great achievements which, we claim, should be recognised and built upon, not discounted or destroyed.


 2.  Proposed Library Provision in Swindon’s new Draft Budget

“Some services and facilities traditionally provided by the Council, such as street cleaning, grounds maintenance and libraries, would have significantly reduced funding from the Council and support will be given instead to existing parish councils or communities to run them themselves.  A Library Service Strategy is being developed to be presented to the Council’s Cabinet in February 2016 for consultation, which assumes a reduction in Council spend on the service of at least £1.5m, or 65%, by 2020, and a Community Governance Review has just been launched to consider whether existing parish council boundaries should be changed or new councils established in 2017.”


3. Libraries in Swindon’s Deprived Areas

Deprived areas present special problems, including health-related and educational needs (‘education’ here including both orthodox and digital literacy), which call out for the retention of Swindon’s professionally-run and staffed libraries.  The DCMS ‘Taking Part Survey’ reported that “People in the least deprived areas (48%) have almost double the digital participation rate of people in the most deprived areas, (24.5%)”.  The proposed changes to library provision in Swindon not only contradict the council’s desire to support orthodox literacy, the ‘right to education’ and the delivery of the Reading Agency’s programmes, all of which are currently enjoying cross-party support, but also to its ambition to increase digital participation.


3.1 Of the public libraries in Swindon vulnerable to the new budget proposals, to “transfer” them out of the Borough Council’s control to Parishes and community groups, there are no fewer than five (5) located in areas of High Deprivation:  Even Swindon Library, Park Library, Penhill Library, Pinetrees Library and Walcot Library (Gorse Hill Library, with a similarly high IMD ranking was closed and replaced by the mobile service).  The Central Library, Moredon Library and Upper Stratton Library’s IMD rankings are also uncomfortably close to that highest quartile.   Deprivation Data, Source:  The Church Urban Fund Parish Profiles

3.2 There is a school of thought that would suggest physical libraries have limited or no place in the digital age. This is not a view that should be espoused by the Taskforce or by the Borough Council.  A professionally-run, accessible public library is an asset very much at the heart of the community.

3.3 Swindon’s public libraries are eminently qualified to foster healthy living, community inclusion, orthodox & digital literacy and independence for all residents of the Town, particularly those who are economically disadvantaged, frail, elderly, visually impaired or disabled.  Reducing our libraries’ ability to function properly and professionally will not contribute to “tackling social care issues before they arise”, an aim recently asserted by the leader of Swindon Council in the local newspaper. Source: Swindon Advertiser, 7th January 2016

 4. Statutory Status, Standards, Accountability & Sustainability

Parish councils and community groups are not local authorities for the purpose of the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act

The introduction of the measures proposed will not only deprive residents of the consistent standard of service on which they have historically relied, but also deprive them of many of their democratic rights:  (i) to be able to hold the Council properly to account; (ii)  citizens having: no access to CIPFA data, given that divested libraries are not included in CIPFA statistics; (iii)  no recourse to FoI responses about their library, as records may no longer be maintained by the Council;  and, crucially, (iv) no democratic right of appeal to the Secretary of State with regard to any concerns about a deterioration in service.   Accountability and transparency are thus seriously undermined, with consequences that will be significant.

4.1 Other local authorities who have introduced similar measures have seen catastrophic falls in usage and deterioration of the service provided.  I can forward these to the Taskforce, on request.  Does Swindon wish to emulate them and will the Taskforce be reluctant to raise these issues with officers and councillors?  I trust not.

4.2 Transformation programmes such as those contemplated for our library service present a great risk of failure and there is a need to balance ambition and realism.  To our knowledge, there is no effective, evidence-based mechanism for judging in advance whether Parishes and community groups have either the capacity or capability to deliver a library service, meaning that the overall picture is opaque.  It is feared that the council’s proposals are unlikely to be sustainable in the long term and, to all intents and purposes, are ‘closures by the back door’.  For the avoidance of doubt, the Taskforce should recommend that the council present a Plan B alongside the Library Strategy envisaged, to provide for the possibility that its current proposals may be found to be unachievable or inadequate.  This Plan B should feature in all future public consultation.

5. Growth of Swindon – Swindon ranked third out of the top 10 cities and towns in the south with the highest population growth 2004-2013, seeing a rise of 14.8%.  That was more than double the rate elsewhere in the south of the UK (including London) which averaged a growth of 5.5%.  Only two cities outside the south (Northampton and Cardiff) featured in this top 10. Data source: CENTRE FOR CITIES/ONS – as reported in The Guardian: January 2015

5.1 Ours is a developing, growing and vibrant Town where many investors and workers will wish to put down roots.  The loss of most or all of its statutory Library Service contemplated in the Draft Budget proposals demonstrates that insufficient attention is being paid to the benefits of retaining a viable library service in a growing and developing Swindon, for the whole populace, into the future.


6. Swindon’s Demographics

6.1 Swindon’s BME Communities, and Community Cohesion – The change in the structure of ethnicity in Swindon is one of the most striking developments in the population between 2001 and 2011.  The proportion of BME people in Swindon doubled from 8.5% (15,344 people) in 2001 to 15.4% (32,128 people) in 2011.  The Asian/Asian British group, moreover, tripled in size.  It is relevant that the Swindon Advertiser reported on 9th November 2015 that the first group of Syrian refugees would arrive in the following few weeks, with “more set to follow in the New Year”.  Access to a local, well-run public library is always, once housing needs have been met, a key need for new arrivals to seek information and access to support services, reading materials and friendship.  The refugees in particular will need high-functioning public libraries acutely, as they make efforts to orientate themselves and settle into an alien environment.

6.2 Swindon’s Elderly & Disabled, and Community Cohesion – The largest growth in Swindon between 2001 and 2011 was in people aged 85 to 89, a group which grew by 48.6%.  Evidence suggests that this trend continues.  These people rely on their good quality, accessible public libraries as they become frail.  They do not want to be rendered prematurely housebound by having to accept a reduced service. The social and economic costs of any quasi abandonment will impact on the council’s future expenditure. There are significant numbers of elderly and disabled people in both deprived and less deprived areas of Swindon who will benefit now and in the future from having a public library within easy reach of home.  The RNIB has recently responded to the council’s draft budget consultation, detailing why an estimated 5,300 people living with sight loss in Swindon, of whom 620 are living with severe sight loss (blindness), rely on their physical, local public libraries.

6.3 Religion, and Community Cohesion – The 2011 Census recorded that people from the Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist religions were represented in every Ward in the Borough. The book stock and services currently provided in a local public library are sensitive to the needs of each neighbourhood. This level of service depends on the professional and accountable service currently offered.  Source: The Elderly, BME Communities, Religion:  Census 2011 Profile Number One – Population Overview of Swindon

6.4 School children’s Access to Library Services, and Community Cohesion

It is fundamental that consideration should be given as to whether local schools have an in-house school library and/or school librarian and the number of children who will need to rely on their nearest public library.  Children need access to a safe library space in which to study during out-of-school hours when there is nowhere quiet at home.  That means a public library they can readily reach on foot for quiet study, choosing books; taking part in the Summer Reading Challenge and other programmes tailored to their needs and using the public computer(s), all of which ought to be under the supervision of paid library staff with the required expertise.  Pre-school children and their parents also rely on access to a nearby public library to give them a good start in life, for Story Time and to enjoy the company of other toddlers and their carers/parents from the same neighbourhood.

In the document ‘Reading: the next steps’ Nick Gibb MP, when he was Minister of State for School Reform, stated that: “Libraries [also] have an important role to play in children’s reading habits.  The Government would like all children to be active members of a public library and we are asking all schools to arrange library membership for all their Year 3 pupils.”  Where will Swindon’s children find a good quality public library within easy reach if the Council’s draft budget proposals come to fruition?

7. Costs and Benefits of Swindon’s Libraries

The Taskforce will be aware that significant research into the economic, educational, social & environmentalcosts and benefits of public libraries in the UK and abroad are in the public domain and accessible for study. This information ought to inform all Impact Assessments that the Council, I understand, intends to undertake.  It should be borne in mind that a consequence of abandoning the Borough’s public libraries to bodies outside statutory control in the short or longer term could well be an onerous increase in future costs to the Council.  Future demands on Swindon’s budgets, as a result, could far outweigh the savings currently proposed. Undoubtedly, there will be severe cost consequences as a result of any errors being made.


8. Conclusion and Recommendations:

  • The scope of the proposed cuts to Swindon’s libraries budget is disproportionate and dismaying.  It is very sad that the cuts from central government to our council and its current ideology appear to have precipitated or encouraged these drastic measures.
  • We fear that unless the Taskforce focuses on the realities here on the ground, and discusses these issues with council officers and members, that Swindon’s excellent professionally-run library network will be damaged beyond repair.

We recommend that, for the avoidance of doubt, the Taskforce:

o   urge Swindon Borough Council and other local authorities to employ an effective, evidence-based mechanism for judging in advance of consultation if Parishes and community groups and other non-statutory entities have either the capacity or capability to deliver a library service fit for the future – and publish their conclusions — before any Library Strategy is agreed in principle;

o   advise the Council that the Impact Assessments which it intends to undertake be informed by that evidence, and other evidence that has been published in the UK and abroad as to the economic and social benefits of public libraries for the whole populace;

o   insist that Swindon Borough Council formulate and publish a Plan B , to insure against any risk that the proposals might (a) conflict with statutory duties and/or (b) any risk that the proposals might be unachievable in the short and longer term – not least because errors will fatally undermine the Council’s credibility;

o   suggest that urgent consideration be given as to whether Swindon’s local schools have an in-house school library and/or school librarian and make a projection as to the number of children who will need to rely on their nearest public library as a key resource for books and information (orthodox and digital) into the future;

o   urge the Council and Taskforce members to consider all material facts carefully, including those that might detract from their own opinions, whilst …

o   making it clear that if a question or issue falls outside the scope of the Council’s expertise or the expertise of the Taskforce – or if  a definite opinion cannot be reached because there is insufficient information – that the missing information be sought and that the public be notified of it in advance of any consultation exercise;

o   encourage Swindon Borough Council and the DCMS to contemplate whether Swindon’s draft budget proposals will result in a comprehensive and efficient library service, under s.7 of the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act;

o   ensure that this visit by the Taskforce to Swindon not be treated as a mere fact-finding mission to be buried in a future Report, but welcomed as an opportunity to work with the Council to promote mechanisms that will safeguard a high standard of library provision in Swindon.


We thank the Taskforce for their visit and trust that they will show no reluctance to bring all the above issues to the attention of Swindon’s officers and elected members, as well as to Ministers at the DCMS and officers of the Local Government Association.

We respectfully request feedback and action from both the Taskforce and the Council that will address our concerns.


Shirley Burnham – Chair, Save Old Town Library Campaign

Marilyn Beale — Secretary, Penhill Forum

Jane Milner-Barry — Committee Member, Pipers Area Residents’ Association; Secretary, Friends of the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery;  Secretary, Swindon Open Studios and Labour candidate, Old Town and East Wichel Ward

Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 13.05.32

We were delighted to hear that 11-year-old George Hamerton was keen to attend the Speak Up for Libraries Rally and Lobby, so delighted in fact, that we invited him to be our Junior Reporter for the day.

Many thanks to Mrs Tyler, George’s headteacher at Condal Primary School in Hampshire for allowing George leave to take up this opportunity…

Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 00.17.16
George in the foreground on the left.

Here is George’s report on the day…

Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 21.19.51
Author selfie – George with Philip Ardagh, Eve Ainsworth, Cathy Cassidy, John Dougherty and Alan Gibbons

On Tuesday 9th February, I travelled to London to take part in the `Speak Up For Libraries` (SUFL) campaign. I was lucky enough to make a speech alongside many famous authors and members of Unison and CILIP. As the Junior Reporter, I had time to interview some of the delegates before the lobby started. I found out many interesting reasons why they were there and the cuts that their libraries are undergoing.

I spoke to people from: The Wirrall, Croydon, Camden, Greenwich and many more. I found out the situations that some of the libraries are in:

  • Greenwich Libraries are campaigning to keep their Mobile Library service because they get around 280 customers a day (30,000 a year, 20,000 of these are children).
  • People spoke of wanting to keep their library staff because when staff leave, they are not being replaced.
  • Camden used to have 14 libraries, but now they only have 9 and one fifth is partially run by volunteers. They also lost their mobile library service and their book budget. As well as this, new staff are on short-term contracts.

In many authorities, library staff are now called Customer Service Assistants.

After some networking, we made our way into the lobby, where the guest speakers made their point.

The guest speakers were Alan Gibbons, Cathy Cassidy, Philip Ardagh, Dawn Finch, Eve Ainsworth, Jake Arnott, John Dougherty and representatives from Voices for the Library, The Library Campaign and Unison.

Cathy Cassidy told us 1:3 children do not own a book.

Dawn Finch said libraries have approx. 260,000,000 visits a year and thousands of people have been lead to a better life via the library.

What I noticed was that many of the guest speakers grew up in a working-class background where there wasn’t enough money to buy books and the library was a safe haven; a place to escape.

I also learnt that libraries are not just for families with young children, but also for vulnerable groups. For people with mental health issues, for the visually impaired, the elderly and the unemployed who require access to computers to look for work.

I was also lucky enough to have the chance to speak. I felt confident to make my opinion clear as I feel strongly about public libraries. My main point was children’s literacy skills suffer when public libraries close and there is no access to a school library. I am lucky at my Primary school as we have a school library, where I am Chief Librarian.

Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 21.20.51
George Hamerton with John Dougherty (left) and Philip Ardagh (that beard)

After the rally, we walked across Parliament Square and visited the Houses of Parliament to lobby our MP (lobbying your MP is easier than you might think). Sadly, I couldn’t see my MP on the day, but the helpful staff at the House of Commons assured me that my MP will contact me to make an appointment to see him.

Because we had some time to spare, we went to watch a debate on the EU referendum. It was very interesting. After our long day out, I was glad to have some rest.

I will be giving a presentation to my whole school – this will seem fairly easy after speaking at the lobby on Tuesday!

I would like to thank The Library Campaign for inviting me to be Junior Reporter for the day, and also all the guest speakers for making me feel welcome and giving me such support. It was an incredible experience.

George Hamerton

Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 21.20.12

And here is the speech that George delivered on the day to a packed room at Central Hall Westminster:

Hello, my name is George and I am Chief Librarian at my Primary school.

I am here today to support the ‘Speak Up For Libraries’ campaign to save our libraries.

I agree with our government that all children aged eight and above should own a library card, but what is the point when libraries are being closed all over the UK? Since David Cameron came into power over four hundred libraries have shut and there are more proposed cuts to come.

There is no legal requirement for a school to have a library. Think of those children who have no access to either school or public libraries.

Where will they access knowledge?

Where will they access a world of brilliant children’s literature?

When I was younger I went to rhymetime and storytime at our local library. This is an important part of early years speech development.

I am one of up to 1,500 children at my local library to finish the summer reading challenge each year. It is proven that children’s reading skills get worse over the long summer holidays and the summer reading challenge is a chance to increase a child’s reading ability. Without libraries there will be no summer reading challenge and children’s reading skills will be set back.

What the government is doing is wrong and we need to stand up for what is right.

And we feel it is important to share the support George had from his school. Here is the Headteacher’s message in a recent school newsletter.  The headteacher, Mrs Tyler, wrote,

I feel I should mention George H, one of our Chief Librarians (Year 6), who was asked to attend a meeting in Westminster to discuss the future of libraries nationally and the decision to shut many libraries across the country.

He was given the opportunity to speak to a delegation of library professionals, school librarians, library users, and authors. George spent time asking delegates a variety of questions and his own presentation took a different angle to the other guest speakers, speaking about the loss of rhyme time/ storytime sessions, there being no legal requirement for schools to have a library, the summer reading challenge, and all children having library cards.

George is now contacting our local MP to seek his views on the future of libraries.

I am always talking to the children about the importance of them having their own voice and speaking up for what they believe in.

What an example of democracy in action!

Thanks for joining us on the day and for speaking at the rally, George.

You made an outstanding junior reporter and speaker on the day.

Alan Wylie was so impressed that he refers to you as amazing George.

We agree.

We look forward to hearing how you get on with your MP.

Thanks for speaking up for libraries!

Posts navigation