‘We will continue the fight!’ Manchester campaigners vow to save six libraries in line for imminent closure

By John McDougall

A passionate campaigner has vowed to continue her struggle to save libraries across Manchester with six set to be axed despite strong public opposition.

After consulting 1,008 people from mid-January to mid-April, Manchester City Council announced libraries in Burnage, Fallowfield, Levenshulme, Miles Platting, New Moston and Northenden will close at the end of June, subject to executive approval.  

But Clare Wall, co-founder of the Northenden Library Action Group (NLAG), says the struggle to save the facilities will carry on for the good of the community, even though 445 either supported cuts or were unsure on the matter.

“It is very disappointing as we believe we still have a chance to save our library,” she told MM. “We will continue our fight to save this vital community facility.

“We do not support the proposed outreach facility as it will not provide the community with all that we need.

“We are hugely concerned for our area. The library is the only publicly funded community facility we have. Its loss would be devastating for Northenden.”

Replacement facilities would see community libraries and small book collections spring up across Manchester as £80million of funding cuts over the next two years take hold. 

Those that agreed the libraries could go were happy with proposals that library services would be delivered through a network consisting of Central Library and 13 neighbourhood libraries.

Ms Wall said that NLAG intend to discuss the proposals with the council next week, before highlighting the people who would be affected across Northenden by the closures.

“Our concern is for the most vulnerable people living here,” she said. “The unemployed use the computer facilities to apply for job and local schools and charities visit the library.

“The sick or elderly cannot make multiple trips to order and collect books or cannot travel out of the area to use another library.

“Knitting circles and the babies and toddlers, along with their parents, use the library for much needed social and educational interaction.”

Swimming baths destined for closure across Manchester – including Levenshulme, Miles Platting and Withington – were handed a reprieve in March after Public Health funds were allocated to support them.

Aware of these developments, Ms Wall revealed NLAG have gone to the council to apply for some of this money, ahead of a planned fancy dress parade tomorrow in Northenden.

“We know that the leisure centres were saved with money allocated for public health,” she said.

“We have put a case forward to the council highlighting the importance of libraries to good mental health (preventing feelings of isolation etc) and applying for some of this money.

“The parade is our last chance to show the Council how passionate the residents of Northenden are about the library, before the decision is made.”

Despite the objections, the council insist that libraries are one of their primary concerns, with five brand new facilities opening in the past seven years.

A refurbished Central Library is expected to reopen in spring 2014 and mean that 99.9% of Manchester residents would be within two miles of such facilities.

The city-wide library strategy offered in the proposals would be delivered through a network of neighbourhood libraries, including The Avenue, Beswick, Brooklands and Chorlton.

Crumpsall, Didsbury, Forum, Gorton, Hulme, Longsight, Newton Heath, North City and Withington would also be part of the network.

Manchester City Council’s deputy leader, Councillor Sue Murphy, feels that despite objections from communities, difficult decisions had to be made in austere financial times.

“We are determined to deliver the best service possible within the severe budget pressures we have faced following the unfair financial settlement government,” she said.

“This involves taking some tough decisions to ensure we have a high quality library network which is sustainable in the long term as we inevitably face further financial pressures in the future.

“We recognise there was considerable opposition in the consultation to some of the proposals but believe that our strategy represents the most workable and sustainable solution.

“We will now be working very closely with communities to endeavour to come up with the right alternative library model for each area. Positive discussions are already underway in many areas.”  

Picture courtesy of Pimlico Badger, via Flickr, with thanks.

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