Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Urgent: Send Letters Of Protest To The Mayor & Cabinet

Only a few more days before Lewisham's Mayor & Cabinet make a decision about which bidder shall win the contract for Manor House Library. Please add your voice of protest to others who stand against third-party organisations running libraries that belong to the people.

Please find below an example template to base your letter on. Decision is to be made on 8th February so this is a critical time.

Template for your letter of protest:

To Lewisham Councillors and Mayor Sir Steve Bullock,

As a Lewisham resident and regular library user, I am writing to urge you to reconsider the plan to outsource Manor House Library to a third party.

I do not believe that the plans as they stand and the bids from the shortlisted businesses are adequate in assuring the literacy, education and freedom of opportunity of future generations in the provision of library services.

Public libraries are needed to provide access to a shared, living culture. Without the grounding provided there, free of private interests, the prospects of Lewisham's children and young people will be compromised. Recent research has shown that reading for pleasure is a major factor in academic success, over social class or parent's education. Why does the Mayor and Cabinet feel that they can gamble with this essential part of our children's learning and social well-being?

If free access to local culture is withdrawn from aspiring individuals and young families and passed into the hands of the few or those who are themselves precariously positioned, it will not thrive.

Is this system of Community Libraries really value for money? Manor House library has had a huge amount of investment in recent years; to hand over to a third party for a peppercorn rent and free business rates is surely a waste of public money. I am also concerned that under the plans in the bid from V22, community rooms are to become private studios for artists and not for the public benefit or use. 

The council has a statutory duty  ‘to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service for all persons’ - can the current proposals guarantee this?

Please reconsider your plans and use the reserves the council has to keep Manor House open for all and run by trained and accountable Council staff.

I urge Mayor and Cabinet to rethink your plans to outsource such an essential service.

Yours sincerely,


Send your letters and emails to: 


Mayor Bullock,

Deputy Mayor Alan Smith,

And your councillors on the cabinet:
Chris Best (Sydenham - Health, Wellbeing, Older People);
Kevin Bonavia (Blackheath - Resources);
Janet Daby (Whitefoot - Community Safety);
Joe Dromey (New Cross - Policy & Performance);
Damien Egan (Lewisham Central - Housing);
Paul Maslin (New Cross - Children and Young People);
Joan Millbank (Telegraph Hill - Third Sector & Community);
Rachel Onikosi (Sydenham - Public Realm);
Joan-Reid (Lewisham Central - Chair Planning Committee B);

And Mayor & Cabinet Secretary/Support Officer Kevin Flaherty;

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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.