Education and learning has always been at the heart of our movement. From the early trade unionists – many of them self taught – to the generations of students educated through institutions like Ruskin College, we all know how important it is to have a place to read, learn and expand your horizons.
Yet the past few years have been tough for our libraries. Always seemingly to be the first service to get hit when the cuts come. Always among the cuts most likely to be opposed by local communities and yet least likely to be overturned.
So it was great to see – thanks to the dedicated and persuasive lobbying from UNISON Neath Port Talbot County Branch – that libraries in Skewen and Baglan, as well as the Mobile Library service and Cefn Coed Museum, are to be saved after 4,000 people from across Neath and Port Talbot Borough signed a petition urging their local councillors not to close their libraries.
By coming together, UNISON, staff and local residents have been able to preserve vital local institutions which will continue to be at the heart of their communities. And a local council – despite being hit by brutal cuts – have put the needs and desires of their community first.
Of course these are tough times for public services and those who provide them – but victories like this give us hope that the tide can turn, and that the resources which have helped so many generations of working people will still be there to support generations to come.