MA coursework 2015
Cue: Residents of Forest Hill are fighting back against cuts imposed on their public services by the new government. This will include £1 million of cuts to local libraries. Lewisham Council has proposed extending its community partner model through replacing paid librarians with volunteers, instead of shutting down libraries or reducing opening times. Anna Fleck has more details.
Although the community partner model has worked in other areas, replacing paid librarians with volunteers could still lead to shorter library opening hours, and if not enough volunteers can be found, the closure of libraries altogether.
Residents of Lewisham are concerned about how this change will affect their community.
Hilary, Lewisham resident and mother: I think it’s a problem that we are trying to pretend that we are going to continue to have a library but without professional staff. It isn’t going to work if it is a volunteer organisation whose main purpose is to do something else, and their main purpose is to get hold of the library building and the contract. I think that isn’t going to work.
Cuts to the libraries will infiltrate deep into the strata of society. These libraries are used by families saving money by borrowing books to unemployed people using the Internet to apply for jobs, from children signing up for summer reading programmes to the elderly who use them as their sole source of the Internet.
We spoke to Councillor Chris Best about why these cuts are happening.
Chris Best, Cabinet member for health, wellbeing and older people: To balance the budget we’ve got income really in the form from the central government, and these grants have been cut, so the government has challenged us, we’ve found £120 m of savings, we’ve got another 45, and the libraries have made contribution in the past to that, but this round of cuts we are looking to save £1 million so it's about a 20-25 percent cut.
Eight hundred and sixteen people have already signed the petition to save Lewisham libraries. More are expected to join with the following public consultations.
In the past, the Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign successfully overturned the council’s decision to close the A & E department, and so there is hope yet for change.
In: Although the community partner…
Out: …hope yet for change.