LIBRARY CLOSURES A NATIONAL SCANDAL – Helen Hayes MP
Library closures across the country have been branded a “national scandal” by Dulwich and West Norwood MP Helen Hayes.
“The BBC produced new research last week which shows that across the country 343 libraries have closed, of which 132 were mobile services and 207 were based in buildings” says the Labour MP in a lengthy statement.
“A further 111 closures are planned this year, and a quarter of all jobs in libraries have been lost, and in many libraries across the country opening hours have been reduced.
“These cuts and closures are a national scandal, and a crisis within a public service which plays such a vital role in opening out access to information and opportunity, as well as bringing people from all backgrounds together.
“This is not a Lambeth-specific issue. “This is a consequence of governments since 2010 which are committed to reducing the size of the state at any price to local communities.
“We also need urgently to escalate the national scandal that it is happening to libraries across the country. “Locally we will see Carnegie library at Herne Hill reopened and sustained, but in many areas across the country that is not the case.
“Library closures, where they are occurring, are devastating for the fabric of communities and access to opportunity, and this is a debate which must be had at a national level.
“We need creative ideas – some of the international Internet companies which have paid far too little tax in the UK in recent years – Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon – provide free access to information in a digital age, have benefitted from the role that libraries have played over many years in making access to knowledge, information and literature available to a wide audience and more recently have also benefitted from the free Internet access available in libraries across the country.
“Should we now be asking the government to introduce a windfall tax on these companies and others like them, to create a national endowment for libraries, or a national levy on Internet advertising to provide a protected revenue stream for libraries?
“Such proposals could help to ensure that, whatever the ups and downs of local government funding in the future our libraries will be there for our children and our children’s children, to be the spaces where people come together, where people can imagine and dream, and where opportunities can become realities.
“In common with many other local authorities across the country, Lambeth council are seeking alternative ways to keep our local libraries running, with new sources of revenue funding.
I am very clear that the council has not engaged the community in Herne Hill as well as it could have over the past six months in relation to Carnegie library.
“I have been asking them to do so, and I am pleased to hear that they will lead a new engagement process very soon.
“But it does seem clear to me that a building which is as large and beautiful as the Carnegie, must surely have the capacity to generate new revenue from alternative sources, without impacting on the provision of the key services which so many people value.
“It is clear to me that the Carnegie Community Trust must have a breadth of representation, both at trustee level and within a wider membership. “The current trustees are aware of this and ready and willing to begin recruiting additional trustees and inviting everyone in the local community to join as a member.”
At last night’s meeting of around 100 library campaigners from across Lambeth borough at Tate library, Brixton there were gasps from the audience when one person said that Fred Taggart and Frances Lamb were named as contacts for the Carnegie Community Hub on the Lambeth.gov website.
As previously reported, they are both members of the five-person Carnegie Community Trust. Two of whom – Fred Taggart and Carol Boucher – are ex-councillors and a third the long term partner of a former Labour leader of Lambeth council, Steve Whaley.
Among the criticisms of the Carnegie Community Trust at last night’s meeting were claims that it did not have a constitution and had zero membership.