Saturday, 14 July 2012

Local MP besieged by library protesters in Haughton Green. Hurst library to be sold to 'McDonald's'!

Last Friday, angry residents in Haughton Green, Denton, confronted Andrew Gwynne MP, demanding to know why their local community library was being closed by Tameside Council. He was also handed a petition containing the names and signatures of 1,457 people who are asking the council to reverse their decision, and to keep their library open.

Gwynne, who was clearly flustered by questions from placard waving protesters, said that libraries and other services were closing in Tameside because the government had slashed the council's budget by £100m. When asked why the parliamentary Labour Party was not speaking out about the cuts and doing more, he said they were speaking out, but were being outvoted by the government who had a majority of sixty. When asked why the local Labour council had been silent about the cuts which they were imposing on the people of Tameside, he told the questioner that they ought to take the matter up with their local councillors. Gwynne told library campaigners that the "worst cuts are still to come" and said he'd only been aware that Haughton Green and Denton West End libraries were being closed, when a local newspaper had contacted him for a comment. He said he would be contacting the council for a full explanation and for the reasons, why they were closing both libraries, which he was opposed to.

Although the council are currently carrying out a questionnaire based consultation exercise, they have already decided to close five libraries - Haughton Green, Newton, Mottram, West End, and Hurst. Dukinfield library could also close. Yet, in spite of these closures, the questionnaire says that Tameside Council is looking to "redesign its library service" and describes these savage library cuts, as "A NEW OFFER FOR TAMESIDE LIBRARIES" the "development of the new vision" offering a "high quality service for all Tameside residents." This bull-shit, is the language of the council's "Big Conversation" with the public. In Tameside, public services don't get cut or closed, they get "redesigned". A source has told Northern Voices that the council is to sell Hurst library, to McDonald's. Moreover, most of what the council is offering is already available in libraries and what people don't often realise, is that in filling in the questionnaire, and expressing a preference for one of the three options put forward by the council, they're effectively voting to close libraries and to cut council jobs.

Unlike Tameside councillors, who are provided with a free laptop or desktop computer and a £250 a year broadband allowance, many people in areas like Haughton Green and Hurst, which have beeen designated as areas of 'social deprivation', may not have internet access or even a computer, and they rely on their local library for access to computers and the internet. Food banks, have already been set up in Haughton Green and Hattersley, to distribute food to people in need.

According to research by the trade union UNISON, since April last year, 100 libraries across Britain have already closed and another 600 are also under threat. In Tameside, the council have now axed more jobs than almost any other authority in the north-west - only Rossendale, in Lancashire, have lost more staff - and they are busily outsourcing jobs and services, to private contractors like Carillion. Since May last year, the council have cut 1,384 full-time jobs and they recently announced that they want to cut a further 600 jobs.

Like many council's, Tameside say they have been forced to make these cuts because the government have cut their funding. Yet, it is the lollipop ladies and the librarians who are losing their jobs in Tameside and not the councillors or the 'fat cats' in these council's. While libraries close in Tameside, Tameside councillor's are given iPads and the choice of a iPhone or a Blackberry ostensibly, to cut down on paperwork and to promote the council's "green credentials." It is also interesting to note who is paying off this deficit, brought about by the greed and incompetence of Britain's bankers and the government's 'light-touch' regulation - it's certainly not the rich!

In May, Michael Meacher, the local MP for Oldham West and Royton, wrote to the Guardian newspaper stating that 77% of the budget deficit is being recouped by public expenditure cuts and benefit cuts, and only 23% is being repaid by tax increases. More than half of the tax increase, is accounted for by the VAT rise. While people lose their jobs and see their benefits and public services cut and their wages frozen or cut, the richest 1,000 persons in Britain, just 0.003% of the adult population, have seen their wealth increase over the past 3 years by £155bn.

1 comment:

Liam Billington said...

In these areas of 'social deprivation' how many of the people bother to go and visit their library to read a book?