The Speak Up for Libraries alliance is urging people everywhere to make public libraries a central issue in the General Election.

The election offers us another chance to make sure central government understands that libraries are a low-cost, essential council resource for all communities. They are vital to national agendas such as ‘Digital by Default’. And they are deeply valued by local residents and the nation as a whole.

Already, many library services are threatened by, or experiencing, deep cuts, widespread closures of vital local branches – or the damaging policy of turning them over to volunteers to run.

Yet the Government continues to cut the grants given to local authorities. Local councils currently face an estimated overall funding gap of £5.8bn by 2019/20. Although libraries are a statutory service, they are often seen as a soft target for cuts. Such cuts often save little but do great damage.

If people wait another five years, their own library could go. Nationally, a postcode lottery is a reality with only some communities benefitting from the presence of a council funded and professionally run library.

Libraries remain the lynchpin of communities, offering access to reading, learning, information and leisure.

Libraries are, or should be, a trusted public space for everyone.

They play a crucial role in improving literacy standards and in combatting the digital divide.

Speak Up for Libraries believes that libraries, far from being obsolete, are more important than ever. That is why we are asking the government to make a public commitment to their survival and development.

Speak Up for Libraries is asking MPs to sign up to the following manifesto when standing for election:

  • Give libraries a long-term future, with a vision for their future development and clear standards of service.

  • Enforce the commitment in law for local authorities to provide a ‘comprehensive and efficient’ library service. This commitment should also include digital, ICT and e-book services.

  • Acknowledge that libraries are important to individuals and communities – especially in times of hardship.

  • Enforce the duty that local authorities have to properly consult with communities to design services that meet their needs and aspirations.

  • Ensure that local authorities receive sufficient funding in order to deliver properly resourced and staffed library services.

  • Recognise that properly resourced library services contribute to the health and well-being of local communities and of society as a whole and therefore complement the work of other public services and of national government agendas.

  • Download a copy of the manifesto here: SUFL – GENERAL ELECTION 2017 manifesto

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