Library services are an important part of our community: promoting learning; bringing people together; providing a space for community groups etc. But, did you know that in York the library service is facing a £250,000 cut (10% of the total budget) in 2013/14? The library services in York are already squeezed, not having seen a rise in funding for over a decade.
Still, no library closures have been announced (yet). As a new tactic to help save costs, the council has decided to turn the central York Explore library into a Social Enterprise, and they have started advertising for volunteers. Now, we think volunteering is a very positive thing, but should volunteers be replacing salaried professional staff? And should a Social Enterprise be running a service which should be under the control of the council? No, is the short answer. This is nothing more than Cameron’s ‘big society’ (read: ‘under funded services led by volunteers’).
York Unison, York TUC, York Student Socialists and York Stop the Cuts are all opposing the council’s plans. We kicked off our campaign with an excellent protest outside York Library, where we collected over 900 signatures (read about it on York TUC blog).
We think the Labour council can do more to oppose the cuts. For example, they are not putting real effort into collecting and allocating council tax funds from empty homes in York. Speaking in response to Osborne’s autumn statement, deputy leader Councillor Simpson-Laing said: “The £600,000 to £700,000 extra on top of the cuts we were already expecting to make in the year 2014-15 is going to be devastating.” And James Alexander on twitter has said: “I can assure you people in York do not like cuts”. By joining the newly created Councillors Against Cuts network, our councillors can show they are serious about fighting this ConDem government. If we don’t form a substantial opposition in councils, trade unions, schools, colleges and on the street, this government and the next will only continue to get away with pleasing their rich palls.