Protesters urge council to drop planned library cuts

Published on: 24 Nov 2017

Bristol'S Council Chamber was packed on November 14 with people of all ages and from across the city, all there to ask Mayor Marvin Rees to stop the proposed cuts to Bristol’s library and parks services. 

Petitions were presented by a number of library groups including the ‘Save Redland Library’ group, who collected 4,269 signatures. 

“The proposals are drastic, far reaching and the consultation clipped the wings of many possible solutions,” said Merche Clark, representing Save Redland Library.

“We need to make sure libraries are maintained to still give everyone the possibility to wonder, learn and imagine.”

Jill Kempshall, Love Bristol Libraries and Bristol Needs Libraries petitions, spoke about a flawed public consultation where the highest response was to write “none of the above” in the options to keep designated libraries open. The group believe that the format of this consultation failed to let the public to express their views about the nature, location and funding of the library service for the future.

Stoke Bishop councillor John Goulandris raised laughs when he said that the Mayor would go down in history as the “book butcher of Bristol” if he goes ahead with the cuts which would see 17 of the city’s 27 libraries lose all council funds, including Redland, Clifton and Westbury-on-Trym Libraries.

An impassioned plea from Cotham Lib Dem councillor Anthony Negus, chair of the cross party community scrutiny group, to his Labour colleagues, recommended the authority implement the plan for at least two years and keep ownership of the buildings before making any decisions on the city’s library provision.

His motion was passed by one vote. After the meeting Anthony Negus said: “The scrutiny group that I chaired showed there was a way of reorganising an all-Bristol library service. Despite this solution working successfully in other councils, Bristol’s administration did not grasp this opportunity. We have shown how this can work and how we can keep going during the two year transition period necessary to put the new public organisation in place.

“We need to save as many libraries as possible. Once they're gone, we lost them forever. This applies to heavily-used libraries like Redland and to those needing to be more attractive to all age groups to support their interests, and need for information, connectivity and aspiration.

“I’m disappointed that it was necessary for the Labour administration to be defeated on this issue.

' I have worked with many from all parties to drive out this alternative positive way forward and I would have wished that all councillors could have supported this initiative.

“Sadly the fight to save our libraries is not yet over. Cabinet makes a final decision on 4 December and we shall see then if they are prepared to step back and be flexible with no extra cost or job losses, for the sake of all communities across Bristol.”

Deputy Mayor Asher Craig said: “Barring the end of austerity, some libraries will have to adapt. I have been quite surprised at the extent and range of proposals from councillors and individuals. 

'No decisions have yet been made. I have read all of the info that you have sent through and it is being taken into consideration.”

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