Coventry Council “threatens closure” of volunteer-run Earlsdon Library

Coventry Council “threatens closure” of volunteer-run Earlsdon Library

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Protesters outside Earlsdon Library

We are pleased to publish the below article by Sarah Smith, a campaigner from Save Coventry Libraries.

Coventry has been given the title of ‘City of Culture’ – but how will the closure of libraries square with this image? Now it seems the time is up for Earlsdon Library, just seven months after being handed over to the volunteers who run it in place of paid workers.

A volunteer has just been notified that Earlsdon Library Friends can “no longer work in partnership with the Council to keep the library open”. Since September 2017, Earlsdon, Finham, and Cheylesmore libraries have all been run by volunteers.

The average lifespan of a volunteer led library is around 18 months, with a handful of exceptions. The library at Arena Park has already been closed, and the possible closure of Earlsdon library is a disgrace!

Labour locally say they are fighting austerity, but the example of Earlsdon library shows that passing on Tory cuts is not combating austerity, it is enforcing it.

Coventry Socialist Party, along with campaign group Save Coventry Libraries, maintain that the Labour council should bring back all libraries under Local Authority control, with paid and fully trained staff.

If you live in Henley, Radford, St Michaels, Lower Stoke or Sherbourne wards, please consider voting for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition on May 3rd, and getting involved in the fight against the cuts.

Save Coventry Libraries campaigner speaks as Cheylesmore library set for closure

Save Coventry Libraries campaigner speaks as Cheylesmore library set for closure

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Protesters outside Earlsdon Library

We have been sent the following article by Save Coventry Libraries campaigner Sarah Smith.

Cheylesmore Library will be closing on 10/8/2017.  Okay, so it’s earmarked to be re-opening as a community run Library on 4th September; why all the fuss you ask?

First of all, that is a whole three weeks and four days that a community will be without a library; just when it needs it the most, due to it being the summer holidays.

The government and local councils have NOT done a full investigation into the impact of community/volunteer solely ran libraries, however, they do know this, the average life span for a community/volunteer solely ran library is 18 months, where there has been only a handful of exceptions. Therefore when this happens it appears like they aren’t responsible for the closure of the libraries but the community/volunteers are.

Not only do they give up the responsibility to run these libraries, but they also give up responsibility for the safety of you. These volunteers are not CRB checked.  They will not be trained to deal with medical or other emergencies that occur, such as safe guarding issues, etc.

They are not even obliged to even open up the library as in if volunteers don’t turn up to open it then the library just doesn’t open.

Finally…

Council’s across the country do not have to impose the cut backs imposed by central government, they could spend reserves and form a campaign against central government for more money; better still, they could say no, if they wanted to and if our local councillors & MP’s refuse to do this, then maybe it’s time to elect those who will stand up for the people of Coventry.

Join the protest outside Cheylesmore Library on Thursday August 10th at 6pm!

Thousands sign petitions against library and youth service closures

Thousands sign petitions against library and youth service closures

Campaigners ourside the Council house hand in petitions of over 2800 signatures

On Monday anti-cuts campaigners handed in petitions with over 2800 signatures against library and youth service closures.

Sarah Smith from Save Coventry Libraries said “This is a further sign of the massive opposition throughout Coventry to the council’s cuts agenda.”

Almost 800 people signed the “Stop Youth Club Closures” petition initiated by Bailey Evatt, one of the service users.

Bailey Evatt with Dave Nellist

Coventry Council say they have to make cuts, but they don’t – they could use the £95million+ that they have in reserves to fund services to hold the line and buy time to build a campaign to get back the money that the Government has stolen from the people of Coventry.

Campaigners holding a poster created by youth club users

Coventry Socialists campaign against library closures

Coventry Socialists campaign against library closures

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Campaigning in the City Centre

Members of Coventry Socialist Party were campaigning against library closures over the weekend, with a campaign stall in the City Centre and supporting the Save Coventry Libraries campaign at Arena Park Library.

Over 800 people signed the petition over the day, showing how strongly people object to the councils plan to close libraries across Coventry. Some libraries are threatened with closure altogether while some will be closed unless volunteers come forward to run them. Many staff will lose their jobs.

Arena Park is a well used library, but is scheduled to close on August 27th. While campaigning there on Saturday we found that many service users were not aware that it was closing and that there is no alternative provision.

More than 1000 people have signed the petition in total – Coventry Council should listen and not close libraries!

Save Coventry Libraries campaigner Sarah Smith (left) collecting signatures

70 people join lobby of Coventry Council against library closures

70 people join lobby of Coventry Council against library closures

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Lobbying the council – save our libraries!

Around 70 people braved the rain yesterday and joined a lobby of Coventry Labour Council organised by Save Coventry Libraries.

A number of councillors passed the demo and spoke to protesters saying that while they appreciate that libraries are a crucial service, they have no choice but to make cuts and close libraries. Let’s be clear, they do have a choice – the council could use the £84million+ that they have in reserves to fund services for a year, while building a campaign to demand the money back from central Government.

It is unfortunate but not surprising that most of the Labour councillors who voted to close these libraries are opposed to Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party. It is a sad state of affairs when they spend more time attacking socialists on Twitter than they do defending the jobs and services of people in Coventry!

Save Coventry Libraries is encouraging people to write to their local councillors and MPs and tell them what your libraries mean to you, and that libraries are a necessity and a basic human right, not a luxury.

The campaign has three upcoming events – “Love Willenhall Library day” on Monday July 25th at 1pm, “Love Arena Park Library day” on Saturday July 30th at 12 noon, and a further lobby of Coventry Council on September 6th at 1pm.

Lobby Coventry Council against cuts

Lobby Coventry Council against cuts

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UNISON members marching against austerity

Coventry TUC has organised a protest outside the council house on Tuesday 23rd, when Coventry Council will set the budget for the next year. The planned budget includes proposals to close libraries and reduce their opening hours, close Edgwick and Eagle St play centres, close public toilets and cut another 1000 council jobs.

UNISON, the largest union on Coventry Council, is calling on the council to pass a legal no-cuts budget, using the £84million+ the council has in reserves to avoid making cuts and to build a campaign to win more money for local services.

The protest is outside the council house from 1pm on Tuesday 23rd February.

Ann Lucas – cut the cake, not our libraries!

Ann Lucas – cut the cake, not our libraries!

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Ann Lucas – pic from Coventry Telegraph website

Coventry’s brilliant Central Library has now been around for 30 years, and staff and service users will be celebrating its birthday on Wednesday 10th February with a number of events. It’s great that the library has been around for so long – but the future of libraries throughout Coventry is under threat, and one of the people behind the planned cuts will also be cutting the birthday cake.

Libraries campaigner Sarah Smith said “It’s ironic that Cllr Ann Lucas is a guest of honour at Central Library’s 30th birthday and cutting a cake, considering she leads the council that’s voted to cut our libraries. I will be there to represent Save Coventry Libraries, to tell Cllr Lucas that she can cut the cake but not our libraries!”

The next meeting of Save Coventry Libraries is on Monday February 15th, 6pm at Central Library. Join the Facebook page here

 

Lively protest to save Coventry libraries

Lively protest to save Coventry libraries

Protesters outside Earlsdon library

Protesters outside Earlsdon library

Save Coventry Libraries organised a demonstration on Saturday at Earlsdon library with very short notice. Dozens of people attended of all ages. It was an incredibly lively protest with home made banners and placards. Many cars passing hooted in support and it was absolutely clear that everyone was there to show support for all Coventry libraries. The demonstrators were, also, absolutely clear that they do not support austerity and cuts to service. The fight against these cuts must and will continue.

The demonstration was, in part, a response to a meeting in Earlsdon that had been advertised entitled ‘delivering communities differently’. The posters for this meeting had a photograph on them of Earlsdon library. They did not give any more details of what the meeting would be about or who the organisers were. The campaign group could only assume from this that ‘delivering communities differently’ meant not through the city council. We have already attended meetings organised by residents associations that have looked at other models, including community volunteer led libraries. We had every intention of attending the meeting on Saturday to debate the issues.

We were deeply saddened that the organisers of this meeting (we are still not sure who they were) decided to cancel it. The reason we have been given for doing so, was that they thought families would have been intimidated by the protest outside the library. It’s interesting as the families that would have gone to the meeting are probably the same as were on the protest. In fact all of the people at the protest would have gone to the meeting.

Part of the discussion at the meeting, we have since learned, was to be about social enterprise. York was one of the first local authorities to consider social enterprise for libraries. It’s model means that the library employees partly own and run the libraries. This involves, as the unions in York have rightly warned, significant financial risk being transferred to library staff. Staff, many of whom, work part time on relatively low wages. We don’t as yet know whether this is the preferred model for Coventry because there has been no open and frank consultation of library provision. This is something we would welcome and would be happy to highlight the pitfalls of each privatisation model.

There are further problems with finding individual solutions for Coventry libraries. It leaves those less ‘attractive’ completely at risk. Particularly those that serve the poorest areas of the city with the greatest need of library provision.

Nicky Downes, Chair of Save Coventry Libraries, speaking at the protest

Nicky Downes, Chair of Save Coventry Libraries, speaking at the protest

We have seen in this city, recent investment in roads and new council buildings. But why aren’t the council seeking long term investment in libraries? Investment that doesn’t involve handing them over to private companies, institutions or individuals? Investment that means they are fit for purpose with the best up to date facilities. Investment perhaps from Coventry based firms that wish to support but not take over the libraries. Why is privatisation seen as the only solution?

It’s absolutely clear that libraries are essential to so many people, but particularly the poorest families and individuals in Coventry. Many people in Coventry and certainly at the protest yesterday can talk about why the library is important to them. It’s, also, clear that the libraries are offering far more services than books. Over the past year we know that the city council has been shocked by the level of support for the libraries and the level of anger when the question of privatisation in any of its forms is raised. This is why we won a year’s reprieve. The city councillors should now be open and honest about what the plans are for the city’s libraries. There should be no more meetings behind closed doors or with unspecific agendas. As one protestor echoed yesterday ‘once we hand the libraries over, they will be gone and we won’t get them back!’ This cannot happen which is why we will keep fighting to save every library.

We now need regular demonstrations like Saturday’s outside every library in Coventry as every single library in Coventry is still under threat of closure or privatisation. No cuts to services. No austerity.

Nicky Downes, Chair of Save Coventry Libraries

Join the Save Coventry Libraries campaign – email Save.Coventry.Libraries@gmail.com

 Facebook: Save Coventry Libraries

Over 50 people join lobby of Coventry council

Over 50 people join lobby of Coventry council 

Protesters gather outside the Council House

Protesters gather outside the Council House

Over 50 people joined a lobby of Coventry Council’s first full meeting since being elected on May 7th. The lobby, organised by campaigners from Save Coventry Libraries, saw a petition of over 2200 signatures against the closure of Tile Hill Library handed in by TUSC candidate Sarah Smith.

A number of staff members and service users from the Employment Support Service (TESS) also attended the protest, and spoke passionately about the support TESS provides, both in helping disabled people find employment and giving ongoing assistance at work. Coventry Unison members also attended to show support to members of the community fighting to defend local services.

A number of councillors passed the protesters and some even stopped to listen to what we had to say – unfortunately Foleshill’s Abdul Khan was not one of them, and dismissed service users by stating that TESS “isn’t [his] portfolio”. Despite repeatedly being asked to oppose cuts, none of the councillors committed to voting against further austerity measures proposed by the Labour council.

Many speakers pointed out that one lobby of the council won’t force them to back down, and further action will be needed, such as the protest against Osborne’s austerity budget on July 8th (5.30pm at Broadgate in Coventry). One campaigner stated that if the councillors we’ve got won’t fight back, at the next election we should replace them with some who will.

Lobby Coventry Council – save our services!

Lobby Coventry Council – save our services!

Protestors outside the Council House

Protestors outside the Council House

Anti-cuts campaigners plan to hold a lobby of the first full meeting of Coventry’s newly elected council on June 23rd at 1pm. The groups, such as Save Coventry Libraries, want to continue to put pressure on the council to fight cuts rather than implementing them.

Sarah Smith, a Tile Hill resident who has been campaigning against the closure of her local library, will be handing in a petition of over 2200 signatures against its closure. She said “Libraries provide a crucial service for the people of Coventry, and the thousands of people who have signed this petition and others show how the strength of feeling about them. Rather than closing libraries and cutting jobs, the council should use some of the £81million they have in reserves to fund services and build a campaign to get this money back from central Government.”

Other campaign groups such as Youth Fight for Jobs, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition and campaigners against the closure of the Employment Support Service (TESS) will also be joining the lobby. Heidi Crowter, a young TESS user with Down’s Syndrome, said “TESS is fantastic because as well as helping people find employment they help people stay in employment. I think it is really selfish of the council to close this service and shows that they don’t really care about people finding employment. The council shutting this down is making me feel really scared for what the future will hold for me. “