Open letter from the Staff of Westminster Libraries

The following is an open letter from the staff of Westminster Libraries to their local councillors.

To the Councillors of Westminster,

Westminster Libraries currently uses less than 1% of the council’s overall budget. We have 11 libraries, an archives service, a reference library, a music library, a home library service and the largest online database for any public library service in the UK. We provide books, DVDs & CDs, Internet access, CV building workshops, Under 5s sessions, class visits, language and computer courses, community groups and workshops and engage teenagers through projects like Fast Forward which has taken over from the connexions career Services: We promote health, community and citizenship and provide a free space to work, socialise and study for residents and visitors.

We now have Parking, Council tax, Rescard, Housing and OneStop services incorporated into our day-to-day duties with no additional funding as a service or as employees; In fact we’ve provided all these services at this low cost whilst going through 5 years of cuts that has already closed libraries, reduced our budget and decimated our staff levels each and every year.

When employment goes down, our workload goes up, and as homelessness increases and incomes plummet, our footfall increases. Year-on-year we’ve risen to the challenge of providing all these services for that ever shrinking less than 1% of the council’s budget.

In 2011, Westminster Council hired two new department directors at the rate it cost to run St James’s library which they were closing at the same time.

In that same year, Westminster councillors refused a 5% reduction to wages above £100,000 to save £3.5 million because the saving would be too insignificant to justify; but library staff have been asked to bear double that cut for only 10% of that saving.

The solution to unemployment cannot be to fire people, and the solution to debt is not to cut income generating, job creating, and crime preventing services.

Not only is it a statutory requirement to provide this service, it is our moral obligation to do so. With new challenges, we need new ideas, not old mistakes and any further cuts to our library service budget would be a drop in the ocean compared to almost any other department in a council that has often stood in the spotlight on the international stage.

We ask that this race to the bottom is brought to an end; and that Westminster council commits to investment rather than cuts so we can continue the good work that we do for the small budget we have.

The Staff of Westminster Libraries

11 thoughts on “Open letter from the Staff of Westminster Libraries

  1. Cindy Jefferies

    Your open letter made me feel like weeping. We have also fought valiantly in Gloucestershire to instil some common sense into our council. What would it take to make them understand? There seems to be no possibility of a meeting of minds. You have my support. You also have my despair.

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  4. Richard Veevers

    Fwiw, I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment of this post and will be closely following it.
    Due to it’s evident potency, please could I/we have some background history. I understand anonymity issues even though, to a non-litigious eye, the post says nothing defamatory.
    Was it a single member of staff who penned the letter or a group, how many staff are involved etc.
    Once again, to it’s creators, many thanks for aggressively defending Librarians everywhere.

  5. Frances Hendrix


    well said and I hope you are successful

    More librarians need to come out and tell it as it is

    You have all our support, and if any one tries to make it diifcult for you for your freedom of speech, let the world know!

  6. Michele Lefevre

    Good luck to all of the staff of Westminster Libraries. It’s a disgrace that these cuts are being made. Nationwide, libraries seem to be picking up more and more services that used to be offered by local councils but have been cut to save money, whilst getting no extra funding or remuneration. Funny how the top jobs remain though isn’t it? Is Westminster a Tory council perchance?

  7. V Pribram

    Excellent letter! I completely agree with every word and library staff have my full support as a Westminster resident. This letter should be published in local and national press.

  8. David Johnston

    Libraries are the centre of a community. You have my full support.

    Councils are closing libraries and yet they appear to allow increased salaries for already highly paid staff. This is wrong.

    Councils are still signing huge contracts for IT, which is outdated. They should reevaluate their IT budgets and hire more library staff.

    In my experience most Councils are paying twice as much as they should on running the IT side of the library.

    If anyone is interested I have written a paper on this topic.

  9. Heather Hobden

    We have the same problem in Lincoln with the county council closing our local libraries. These are essential community and information centres. 170 librarians will be made redundant. The county councillors seem to have forgotten this is our money and we want to keep our libraries and our librarians. Far from the shortage of money claimed there was enough for the county council to award itself a massive one third pay rise!

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