Disappointed with Labour’s attitude over library closures

First published in Letters

I AM very disappointed with the decisions and attitudes of Bolton Labour councillors.

At the council meeting on Wednesday, they made a big show of their concerns about inequality, while justifiably defeating Conservative proposals to reduce the share of Area Forum money for poorer areas of the borough.

To my astonishment, in the library closures debate a few minutes later, the two parties had swapped over.

In this debate, the Conservatives were correctly drawing attention to the extent to which Labour proposals hit the poorest areas hardest while Labour members, in effect, continually repeated Margaret Thatcher’s mantra: “There is no alternative”.

Labour councillors have given no coherent explanation of why they believe the only options are to cut no libraries or five libraries, rather than considering closing a smaller number. The Conservatives accurately revealed the hopeless inadequacy of the proposed alternative Neighbourhood Collections of only 300 books.

All Labour councillors present voted to close five libraries — Astley Bridge, Heaton, Highfields, Castle Hill and Oxford Grove—while the LibDems abstained.

Closing the latter two libraries means that the library service is being withdrawn from two of the four more deprived areas which currently have libraries.

In terms of total opening hours, Labour’s plan reduces library opening hours by nine per cent in the less deprived areas, by 31pc in mixed areas and by 42pc in the more deprived areas.

The Oxford Grove library area has the lowest level of educational attainment of any of the current 15 library catchment areas, while the Castle Hill area has the highest level of disabilities and long term illness.

Labour councillors approved, ignoring these statistics as factors to be taken into consideration.

Labour councillors legitimately pointed to the responsibility of the Coalition Government in imposing savage cuts on all local government. But they did themselves no credit by engaging in petty point scoring against Conservative councillors, rather than entering into a constructive debate to improve on their flawed, unfair and damaging library closure proposals.

There is no point in Labour councillors talking the talk on combating inequality if they choose to implement proposals such as this on library closures which impose cuts hardest on the poorest.

Barry Mills Save Oxford Grove Library Campaign

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