Thursday May 3rd sees local elections once more taking place across the UK. Once more, this is a chance to hold to account those politicians who have been behind moves to close libraries or forcing communities into running them themselves. This is a chance to send a strong message to politicians who have not listened to library users and hold them to account for their refusal to engage or listen to the concerns of library users.
Take, for example, Bolton Council leader Cllr Cliff Morris. As a result of his leadership, five libraries were closed across the town, including Oxford Grove library in his own ward of Halliwell. Secretary of the local Save Bolton Libraries campaign, Ian McHugh, will be standing against Cllr Morris representing the Green Party. We wish Ian the best of luck in his efforts.
In Doncaster, a referendum will be held to decide whether Doncaster will be run by a mayor or by a leader of the council. This is an opportunity for the people of Doncaster to reject their mayor, who has wreaked havoc across the borough and seriously undermined the principles of democratic accountability. In the past couple of months, Mayor Davies has defended his decision to veto £380,000 worth of investment in libraries and has overruled a majority council decision to reopen libraries at Denaby and Carcroft. We very much hope that the people of Doncaster reject their existing system and choose one that is more democratic, backing the clear will of the people of Doncaster to provide a properly funded library service.
Campaigners in London also have an opportunity to remove those that have been hostile to public library provision. Voters in Barnet and Camden, for example, have an opportunity to reject Brian Coleman as their representative in the London Assembly. Coleman has been a key inspiration behind attempts to close libraries within the borough, despite being a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. In Croydon and Sutton, library users will be alarmed to know that candidate Steve O’Connell recently claimed that he “does not care who runs public libraries…All that matters is that they are kept open.” So replacing paid staff with volunteers seems to be very much on the table as far as O’Connell is concerned. Furthermore, campaigners in Brent will be looking very carefully at the record of their current representative Navin Shah, who has done little to support campaigners in the fight against their local authority, supporting Brent’s claims that the authority was in an “impossible” position and had no choice.
Come May 3rd those concerned about library closures have a clear choice. Now is the time to vote for libraries and make sure your local authorities get the message loud and clear: Save Our Libraries.