Sunday, 19 March 2017

Library Protest 5pm this Wednesday

Join our last-ditch protest this coming Wednesday, 22nd March, when the council will announce which enterprise will take over Manor House Library.

The council is willing to allow a host partner the privilege of leasing the building (for twenty-five years!) and pay no rent, have a special discount on the business rates, to rent out the rooms with the rents going to the host partner, while the council tax-payer still funds the mortgage and some maintenance, loses the business rate and makes no money from the publicly funded investment. What genius came up with this? The preferred community organisation of the council is V22, but the public's choice by consultation was Arts Network. Why is the council ignoring public wishes, if the consultation was genuine?

2 out of 3 of V22's subsidiary companies are profit-making. If and when their position on the stock market collapses, this will bring a wrecking ball to our library service. The foundation may have charitable aims but is not a charity as yet, but has been 'in the process of registering' for more than a year. Handing over public services to a private company is scandalous!

Come along to the protest at 5pm outside the Town Hall on Wednesday 22nd March when Mayor and Council rubber stamp this calamity.

Alongside our protest will be parents and pupils and teachers from Forest Hill School, where they have been forced to take strike action. The Mayor and Head say the cuts imposed as conditions of the council's loan, 20% cut to staff budget, sacking 15 teachers in the next term, will produce a 'lean', mean, teaching machine. The reality is it would put the school in a tailspin. The library campaign stands in solidarity with this campaign.

There will be a social in the Catford Constitutional Club after the protest.

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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.