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News of proposed closures to Bristol Libraries - reaction from Labour's Thangam Debbonaire

Cuts to Bristol Libraries – Labour Reaction

I was shocked to hear of the sudden announcement yesterday of a decision by the Mayor to close seven of Bristol's libraries, including Redland and Clifton in Bristol West. There's been a consultation, but it now seems that the Mayor wants to go ahead. Austerity has led to savage cuts to the budget for local government, so it's strange that our Liberal Democrat minister MP along with several Liberal Democrat and Tory councillors are protesting - this is the austerity regime they introduced, hurting the people of Bristol once again.

It was only one week ago, at the council budget meeting,  thanks to their determination and an eye for detail, that Labour councillors found a way to invest £1.2 million in developing libraries into 21st century community hubs. It makes no sense to tear up these plans before they've even begun.

I was so pleased yesterday when Ed Miliband announced Labour's commitment to ensuring every child has access to arts and culture. Local libraries are an integral part of this - we need to value them, update them, yes, and keep them as a vital part of the cultural life of our city.

Bristol West Labour members have been in touch with me today and we are launching our own campaign to call for a halt to these cuts. I'm setting up an online petition to call on the Mayor to stick to what was agreed last week by full council, halt the proposals and return to the plan to work with local people to create the community hubs.  Please join us and sign online here.

Councillor Estella Tincknell, Labour's spokesperson for arts, said today:

“Most people feared that the Mayor’s consultation was a smokescreen for library cuts and closures and that’s the way it looks today. The proposed library closures across Bristol must be seen in the context of the huge cuts in funding suffered by Bristol City Council, through the ideologically driven austerity policies of the current  Lib Dem / Tory government. It is ironic that Tory and Lib Dem Councillors here are now shouting to save their local libraries.

As a former librarian, I know how important libraries are in our communities. However, they do need to refocus on the needs of the 21st century, and it is important to review their functions in a positive way so as to retain existing users and attract new ones.

Starting by announcing a list of proposed library closures and possible redundancies is not a constructive or positive way to begin this process. It seems to have been poorly handled, and library staff have not been well treated. Just last week council approved Labour’s Budget amendment earmarking £1.2m to invest in our libraries and this news cuts right across the spirit expressed by all sides at that meeting that this was a chance to build on what we have – working towards a 21st century library service. We back those communities which have suggested creative and imaginative ways of turning their libraries into community hubs – and that was the intention of our investment plans.

We should first agree the new model for our libraries as the starting point of the library review, if it is to be anything more than a smokescreen for cuts.

We are astonished that the Green Party Assistant Mayor – whose party is loudly criticising all austerity cuts – is delivering what looks like the biggest blow Bristol has suffered.

My view is that the closure list should be withdrawn and a consensus should be agreed on our model for libraries of the future,” says Estella Tincknell, Labour spokesperson for the Arts.






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