‘A slap in the face’: Levenshulme campaigner and Northenden Lib Dem councillor condemn library closures

By John McDougall

The impending closure of six libraries across Manchester has been met with a mixture of outrage and sadness by campaigners and councillors alike.

Manchester City Council last week confirmed libraries in Burnage, Fallowfield, Levenshulme, Miles Platting, New Moston and Northenden will have funding withdrawn on June 29, subject to executive approval.

Jeremy Hoad, Levenshulme Community Association secretary and Save Levenshulme Baths and Library group member, feels the council have not listened at all to the concerns of pressure groups.

“It is a bit of a slap in the face really,” he told MM. “There has been costing proposals which with some work with the library service could be done to find a solution.

“My disappointment is that the report does not seriously recognize any of the proposals or solutions that we have been working on with the library service councillors.

“It seems to be a rehash of exactly the same proposals as before, which is close all the libraries and establish collections. It is extremely disappointing to hear that.

“The report fails to acknowledge the work that has been done by the communities and just strikes as insulting really.”

Despite various petitions from across the city garnering nearly 12,000 signatures, the council still plan to replace the six libraries with community facilities and small book collections.

This news also comes following a consultation of 1,008 people from mid-January to mid-April, in which 60 percent of those who answered opposed the proposed closures.

The moves are part of a funding cuts programme in which the council must save £80million over the next two financial years.  

Mary Di Mauro, a Liberal Democrat councillor for Northenden, feels the council have ignored the pleas of residents and have their priorities wrong.

“Northenden Library is more than just a building,” she said. “I do not understand the council’s determination to close six of our valuable local libraries.

“Residents feel keenly that the decision-makers are utterly unwilling to listen and that they cannot see beyond the basic structure.

“They feel utterly let down by a council they see as putting its own ideas of grandeur before the needs of this city’s residents.

“Northenden has a strong case for a library. It is our only community building and it serves our most needy and vulnerable.”

The news comes just weeks after swimming baths under threat of closure – in Levenshulme, Miles Platting and Withington – were spared by the council until new facilities are built by 2015.

Although the library situation appears to be dire, Mr Hoad still hopes they can be saved, but only if the council is prepared to work with residents and communities.

“I am still optimistic that a solution can still be found,” he said. “I think a solution can still be found if the council are willing to listen.

 “I know a couple of councillors are frustrated as well but the discussions that have been taking place are there can be a solution for Levenshulme.

“I have submitted a business plan to the library service which I’ve worked on with councillors and the community which would offer a solution where we could keep the library open.

“All we can do is come with proposals and solutions and ideas, but if they are not willing to listen then there’s nothing we can do and the libraries will shut at the end of June.”

Picture courtesy of simplerich, via Flickr, with thanks.

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