UNISON calls for action to stop library closures

UNISON, the UK’s largest union, is calling on the government to ease the heavy cuts it is inflicting on councils, which are causing many to close down or drastically cut local libraries.

A report from the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee out today (6 November) warns that due to cuts and closures, some councils are in danger of failing their legal obligations to provide local people with a ‘comprehensive and efficient’ library service. This could leave councils open to legal challenge – but also means that local people are missing out on the vital services that a vibrant local library can provide.

The report states that local authorities need more support in order to make the right decisions about library provision. It suggests that libraries look to Arts Council England (ACE) for this support, but, given the huge cuts and re-organisation that ACE has been hit with, the union is deeply concerned that this will leave libraries without this vital support.

Dave Prentis, UNISON general Secretary, said:

“The coalition’s cuts are robbing local communities and generations of children of the vital services that a vibrant local library can bring. In the current economic environment – where hard pressed families are struggling to make ends meet – the services that a library provides are more important than ever before.

“This report, quite rightly, identifies the value of libraries beyond just book-borrowing, pointing out their role within communities in terms of literacy and providing a broader range of often unrecognised services.

“But our local library service is facing a grim future of cuts and closures with local people paying the price for bad decisions made by councils. Some councils are even leaving themselves open to costly legal challenges, which would be a scandalous waste of public money.

“UNISON is deeply concerned that Arts Council England, also facing cuts, will not be able to effectively advocate on behalf of libraries. The government has to step in before it is too late.”