Monday, 18 July 2016

Press release


Lewisham's library workers will be on strike this Wednesday 20th July and there will be a public lobby outside Catford's Civic Suite at 6:30pm for the Full Council Meeting in which bids for the future of Torridon Road, Manor House, Forest Hill and Catford libraries will be decided.

Council officers have announced that an artist studio company called V22 and two community interest groups are their preferred bids. V22 have bid for Forest Hill Library alongside the Forest Hill Society and a bid has been taken to run Torridon Road Library by a group which has not yet been officially formed. Plans for Catford library and Manor House are unclear, although it is expected that staff will be stretched from the three remaining council-run libraries to cover these with reduced opening hours.
The officers claim that 'good progress has been made' despite having been unable to find community groups to run all four threatened libraries as was promised during a public consultation, a plan which faced a massive opposition and spurred hundreds of people to march from Lewisham to Catford Town Hall in May.
On Wednesday, Councillors and Mayor Steve Bullock will decide if giving public libraries and the literacy and education of its future generations to private interests and precarious, untrained community groups is good progress, or if there is a case for rescuing Lewisham's Library Service during a time of upheaval and dire need.
A growing number of library workers and campaigners continue to fight for libraries as the havens of calm and doorways to learning and opportunity which communities in Lewisham demand.

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Restore Our Library Service

Lewisham's libraries are a well loved and much used service, especially depended on by children.

It is upsetting then, that our libraries have been put through the wringer, and to show for it, issue numbers have fallen more than almost anywhere else in the country in the last five years. Lewisham Council has executed on its misbeggoten decision to cut £1 million from the budget, making most staff redundant whilst outsourcing operations to social enterprises and charities on decades long leases and contracts. And disgustingly, council advances this as an innovative 'opportunity'. It has also been pushing the money under the rug, as outsourced groups who run into cash flow problems are given large council grants, and this is now par for the course.

The Council removed staff from 4 of our libraries in 2016:

Catford, Forest Hill, Manor House and Torridon Road.

Despite the massive public opposition and the first council staff strikes here in decades, they pushed the changes through. This is not forgotten or over. This must be rectified.

Unison was right to believe that the implementation of the scheme would mean:

  • Professional staff will not be available in these libraries
  • Opening times will be reduced
  • If there are not enough volunteers, then libraries will close
  • Library usage and services to the community will be reduced
  • Vulnerable users won’t be able to access library services

They can no longer rightly be called libraries but pale imitations, community centres, thinly veiled property development operations that make a show of meeting a few basic library service functions and relying on volunteers. They stretch the remaining council staff dangerously thin, perhaps popping in to Pepys library once a week to mourn the chaos. Having made these idiotic redundancies so drastically management have had to take on agency staff. They've even trained up at cost new staff, who have handed in their resignation finding the conditions intolerable.

It has left us left three "hub" libraries still very basically council staffed, Lewisham, Deptford Lounge and Downham. Catford often has nobody but the security guards that work in the building, you can't print and can never expect to be able to print, and it is unsafe and unreliable.

In a borough this size it no longer meets our statutory right to a local, accessible, convenient library service.

These hub libraries are under threat of more unsubtle restructures by Bullock and head of the service Anthonio 'they changed my title so I'd have no chance of being sued' Rizzo. We campaign by all our legitimate means, from our right to public assembly, to arguing in surgeries and consultations, to looking into the published books of tender candidates to see what the council turns a blind eye to.

We have perhaps decreased the damange and slowed it down, but council generally has its head in the sand, and the tory government that goes without saying.

In this misinformation, privatisation age libraries are for their users desperately important.

Save Lewisham Libraries urges you to FIGHT FOR LIBRARIES!

Please sign our petition, come to our meetings and developing protests and get involved.