UNIONS and anti-cuts campaigners have called on York residents to go on a borrowing spree at the city’s libraries as they prepare to stage a protest against plans for their future.
City of York Council is drawing up a business and financial blueprint for how the city’s library service, whose budget needs to be cut by £250,000, can be run. It includes the possibility of forming a community benefit society to take charge of operating libraries and archives.
The plan has been supported by a £100,000 Cabinet Office package and the council said setting up a mutual organisation to run the service would make it the first of its kind in the UK.
However, York Trades Union Council (TUC), UNISON, York Stop The Cuts and Socialist Students are staging a “celebration of the library” outside York Explore tomorrow – which is National Libraries Day – over fears the changes would ultimately leave libraries at risk of closure.
The groups oppose social enterprises running public services and prefer progressive taxation, based on affordability, being introduced to protect them.
The event, between 11am and 2pm, will encourage residents to use their full borrowing allowance at York’s libraries that day as a show of support.
York TUC treasurer Karen Millar said: “We are concerned taking libraries out of public ownership and into the control of a social enterprise will remove democratic accountability and eventually put them at risk, because we don’t believe there are clear guarantees about their future under this model.
“Our view is that libraries should remain under full council control, savings should be properly thought through, and more taxation of those who can afford to pay should be devoted to funding and protecting public services.”
Detailed proposals about future plans for libraries will be announced in the summer. The Labour group, which leads the council, has said it will do all in its powers to protect the service and wants a thorough exploration of how this can be achieved, but said the current set-up is not viable long-term and alternatives must be considered.
The group has also said a professionally led and community-supported mutual organisation, with full-time librarians and archivists in charge, is a sensible option worth exploring.