Update 10th November, ‘no Liverpool Libraries to close’
After several months of consultation with us all, Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson announced this morning that no Liverpool Libraries will now close. Some will shorten their hours and it seems that seven out of the threatened eleven will now be run by ‘partners’ (still to be announced who these are). So very good news or a positive spin being put on a situation of continuing uncertainty and financial fragility?
Well obviously we’ll all be watching very carefully. But for now, well a limited library is still a library, can still expand back to full services one day. Whereas closed libraries would be gone forever.
Here’s what Joe Anderson said.
So, well done so far City of Liverpool. By which I mean everyone. Parents, children, protestors, potential partners, politicians and particularly the City Libraries staff who have been running most of the consultations and so borne the brunt of our concerns. Well done all. Now let’s sort out the details.
Update, 15th August, Eleven Liverpool City Libraries set to close
The Proposal outlined below was approved at the City Council Cabinet meeting this morning. There will now be a period of further consultation to see what might be possible by working with community groups and other potential partners for the eleven of Liverpool’s libraries now threatened with closure.
Unless these efforts can be successful, as things stand there will be no public libraries in the North of Liverpool between Central Library and Norris Green. As you’ll see below this gives me particular concern. The loss of any libraries is deeply injurious to the City, but to have such a vast area with no local service gives me great concern for the futures of all children, claimants and the less mobile in Kensington, Breckfield, Everton, Vauxhall, Walton, Kirkdale, Anfield, Fazakerley and West Derby. Surely as a City we can sort something out here?
I’ve heard from a City Councillor that there is to be a special meeting about the issue on 10th September but don’t yet have an agenda for this. Will update as soon as I have but suspect it may be the meeting of the Cultural Select Committee called for by the Green Party and the Lib Dems, as reported by the Liverpool Echo.
Full Liverpool Echo report including a statement by Mayor Joe Anderson here.
Well the news is in and the news isn’t good. On 15th August a proposal will go to the meeting of Liverpool City Council in the Town Hall to close eleven of our nineteen libraries.
Before I list those threatened and those to stay, a bit of context from when I attended one of the public consultation events back in May. I wrote then:
“Liverpool gets 76% of its funding from Central Government. And they’re going to cut this by half by 2016/17.
Therefore the City Council has been forced to decide to cut its mandatory services, including libraries, by 25%. And its discretionary services, like sports and culture, by 50%. In the case of libraries this will mean an annual budget of £10m being reduced by £2.5m.
The Council has been running a survey (which I’ve written about before) to gather facts and opinions about what might be done. And have run five open meetings around the libraries, of which this is the last. They tell us they’ve had 3,500 surveys completed and have also been gathering thoughts and ideas from these meetings.
Later in the year the council will decide what to do.
And I found the meeting almost unbearably sad. We talked all the way around the kind of things that could happen. About not automatically closing the less well used libraries in less well off areas. I even brought up the possibility of a bit of philanthropic help to see us through until we can elect a better government. But it was pointed out that though philanthropic money can still sometimes be found to build things, it never pays the costs of running them.
I talked particularly about the children as I did on my post about the survey, as did others. And the fact that no one in the room wanted to see a ‘Big Society’ approach where volunteers take over the jobs of paid staff. We didn’t come up with any easy answers, nor did I feel this was all empty talk about decisions already taken. I felt I was in a discussion with people who are as passionate about libraries as I am.”
Those people have now analysed all the facts and surveys, completed their work and produced a detailed proposal which will now go to the full Council (And do read the proposal, it seems to me to have been carefully done, given the brutality of the national political environment they’re operating in). But here is the news. The closure of the following libraries will now be considered:
- Breck Road
- Lee Valley
- Old Swan
- Sefton Park
- Spellow Lane
- West Derby
For each of them careful reasoning is listed. For example, for Kensington:
- Low number of users compared to other libraries.
Use is predominately for I.T with alternative localcommunity IT provison being explored by ward councillors.
- Low book issues.
- 32.35% of ward catchment area use Central Library.
- Extended IT facilities available at Central Library.
- Central Library is approximately 1 mile away.
- Good transport corridors to city centre from area.
- Building is owned by LCC.
- Library has ongoing maintenance issues with the roof.
- City of Liverpool College has community learning provision based here and this facility is at risk following a city wide review of provision. This will result in a loss of rental income from the City of Liverpool College and add to the cost of running the Library for LCC.
And the proposal isn’t quite saying they will be closed immediately. But that the above list ‘will form the basis of public and stakeholder consultation on which Liverpool City Council will seek alternative proposals and ideas over and above the comprehensive and efficient library service.’
And the shape of the proposed ‘comprehensive and efficient library service’?
From these libraries and services:
- Central Library
- Allerton Road
- Norris Green
- Home library delivery service
- RNIB talking books service
- 24/7 Read Liverpool online & telephone services
Again, careful reasoning is given. For example, for Norris Green:
- Retained as a high performing north of city library and one of the consistent top five performers.
- Serves an area of high deprivation.
- Building is owned by Liverpool City Council.
- Ample space for partner services to reduce costs.
- Potential for Broadway One Stop Shop relocation.
- Mitigation for potential library closures in north of city.
- Good location in terms of public transport and shops.
Nevertheless, this is a shockingly painful proposal and means that between Central Library and Norris Green/Croxteth there could be no other libraries in the north of the city.
This morning I asked the Liverpool Greens, now the official opposition in Liverpool if they had any thoughts on an alternative to what is proposed. And they sent me this from their proposed amendments to the Council’s budget proposals earlier in the year:
“There are two revenue lines allocated for direction by councillors and by the Mayor for optional, discretionary projects – Mayoral Neighbourhood Fund £1.24m and Leader’s Fund £1m. Those funds should be reduced to £404k and £202k, representing a reduction to approximately one third and one fifth of their budgets, respectively. Those levels should be maintained for 2015/16 and 2016/17.
The consequent saving of £1.634m should be used to stop any library closures in Liverpool.”
They told me ‘All budget amendments have to be checked by the council’s City Treasurer to make sure they are financially sound and this would have worked if Labour had supported it.’
So, what should we do? What can we do?
Well we could all have a great time falling out with each other over relatively tiny amounts of money. About what the Mayoral Neighbourhood Fund and Leader’s Fund are actually being spent on and whether they should. We could say public libraries are more important that other City Mandatory Services. And none of it, none of it would get us anywhere. Because the cause of all of this is not local, it’s not even simply national. It is one result of all of the major players in the global economy deciding that the bailing out of their corrupt banking system will be achieved by foisting ‘austerity’ on the people of their nations.
Here in Liverpool the people have voted in a Council that is almost entirely Labour and I’m sure they will say that they and their officers are doing their best to preserve anything municipal at all out of the miserably unfair hand they’ve been given . So this proposal, or something very like it, will almost definitely go through. Therefore, within a service of roughly the shape set out my concerns and thoughts are:
- Please let’s have a serious think about North Liverpool. That’s far too big an area to leave without a library. If the existing ones aren’t ok could we maybe find a creative way to build a new one as part of the redevelopment of Anfield? And keep Spellow Lane or Walton open for now?
- Can we introduce special and regular bus services to the remaining libraries?
- Can we make sure the remaining libraries are open evenings and weekends to provide maximum access for all?
- And for the libraries that close, can we care for them and their books until we can turn a political corner?
Well they’re my immediate thoughts anyway. I want to think more about everywhere on the ‘closed’ list and what could happen. But for now I’m too sad to write much more.
This is a bad day for Liverpool and I don’t blame anyone in Liverpool for it. As I said at the end of my previous public libraries post:
“Hours later, typing this at home, I realise that I have spent this afternoon on the front line of the class war. Not something you expect to happen in a meeting room in a library. But we were all only there because the Government of our country has decided to use austerity as a political weapon. Training it unfairly on the cities where, as it happens, its opponents live.”
I’m sure I’ll have more to say about this. For now I just wanted to play my part in getting the news out.