December 6, 2011

Looking forward to what? The threat to Old Trafford Library

On December 5th 2011, Trafford Council announced their proposals for financial year 2012/13.

Part of their plans involve a re-organisation of library services in the Borough. Here is what it says in their document ‘Looking Forward’

Hale and Old Trafford Libraries

Hale and Old Trafford libraries serve very different communities but both are well used in different ways. The proposal for these two libraries is for them to be run by community groups or organisations and staffed by volunteers.
Trafford Council would still support the organisations by buying and maintaining the stock, maintaining the buildings and providing training to the groups that took on responsibility for the running of the library.

In return the groups/organisations would maintain the library service and activities at a reduced cost to the Council, thereby enabling the libraries to remain open. Any group/organisation wishing to get involved in this would need to sign up to a service level agreement (SLA) with the Council in order that standards and services would be maintained.

A member of Trafford staff will still be available to deal with Council enquiries such as council tax and benefits, waste and recycling, blue car badges and pest control. We are also proposing to provide a video link so customers can talk to staff in our Contact Centre.

As residents, community activists, community organisers, volunteers and voluntary sector workers in the area we object to this plan on several grounds.

1. We believe Old Trafford residents deserve a library staffed by professional librarians. As an area of multiple deprivation, with many vulnerable residents and where many of our young people do not have English as a first language, our need for professional, trained staff in our library is greater than most.

2. We are appalled by the proposal to use volunteers and the voluntary sector to directly substitute paid staff who face redundancy. Many Old Trafford library staff are our friends and neighbours, and we have no intention of enabling their redundancy by volunteering to do their important jobs for free. This is not the role of the voluntary sector.

3. We do not believe the proposal to run Old Trafford Library using only volunteers could work in the long term. It is not viable or sustainable. We are deeply concerned that if we allow the staff to be dismissed this year, then it is only a matter of time before we face reduced hours and ultimately total closure.

4. We see no rational reason why Old Trafford has been chosen (along with Hale) for this experiment. No justification or explanation has been given. We hold that it is arbitrary and unfair.

If Trafford Council persist with this proposal, we shall raise all these points using all legitimate means of campaigning at our disposal, beginning with the open letter from members of the Old Trafford Community and Voluntary Sector featured here, followed by public petitions, letter writing and other forms of protest.

If you agree with us on this, and would like to add your name to any letters and petitions or get involved in other ways, please watch this space and we shall keep you fully informed.

Tags:
March 20, 2012

Breaking news

Very significant news coming out of the council.

The executive have published their reactions to the formal consultation on library services. The documents are to be presented to the scrutiny committee on Thursday evening.

The key section is here.  Under “recommendations”

Option 4 – Maintain 2 Customer Service Advisers in Hale and 3 in Old Trafford.  Plus employ a part time Customer Service Specialist on a fixed term contract to establish the volunteer programme and provide a budget for volunteer expenses of £6,000. This would result in a budget pressure of £67,500 for the retained frontline staffing, £12,000 for the Specialist and £6,000 for volunteer expenses – a total of £85,500

Even as it stands, this would be a major victory for the community. While we don’t want to see any cuts or redundancies, reducing the paid staff from 5.75 (FTE) to 3, to be supported by volunteers, is a vastly more credible, sustainable and acceptable  plan than the original proposals.

However we can now look at the fully-costed proposals at £85,500, and compare it to the current costs for fully staffing the library (around £100k) and ask whether the minimal savings can in any way justify the structural overhaul involved and the remaining risks to the long term future of Old Trafford library.

More news as we get it.

 

 

March 2, 2012

Formal response to Trafford council’s consultation

Today, Friday 2nd March, HOOTLibrary submitted a formal response to the Council’s consultation.

You can read the full report here

You can still make your own submissions to the consultation before Monday 5th. Feel free to refer to anything in this document. Indeed we’d actively encourage it!

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

When Trafford Council first announced their proposals for library services in the borough, they provided very few details as to how plans to replace paid staff with volunteers in Old Trafford and Hale libraries might be implemented. There was no evidence that any preliminary research had been conducted, there was no reference to any kind of feasibility study, and no formal or informal discussions had been held with any representatives of the community and voluntary sector in Trafford to establish a co-operative partnership to implement the proposals.

In the intervening 13 weeks there has been some correspondence between residents and Council representatives, more information emerged during the process of council scrutiny, and there have been meetings between the community and the council both behind closed doors and at a Neighbourhood Forum. This has added sufficient clarity to the proposal that it has enabled the Council’s claims and assumptions to be checked, and their observance of the statutes of local governance to be examined and analysed.

This document scrutinises in detail some key claims which the Council have made in public to residents of Old Trafford, to elected council members and to the media. HOOTLibrary were told by a Council director that they knew of large numbers of libraries successfully run by volunteers, many of which were comparable to Old Trafford. We investigated the truth of this claim.

This submission reveals that:

Out of 77 known volunteer-staffed libraries which were researched, 64 are in rural areas, small towns and villages. The manager of one such volunteer-run library has explicitly warned that their model could not be replicated in a deprived inner city area.

In Hunmanby, North Yorkshire, proposals similar to those of Trafford failed after sufficient volunteers could not be found. That library is now closing.

Analysis of larger urban libraries revealed no successful precedent for the proposals in Trafford. After the transfer of Lewisham libraries to community control, use of the libraries dropped by 89%.

This report also investigates the promised savings of around £100,000. By breaking down the full extent and costs involved in recruiting a voluntary sector organisation to deliver staff at

Old Trafford library, it demonstrates that any savings are likely to be minimal, while risks are great.

Finally, the report examines the procedures followed by Trafford Council from a legal perspective. It concludes that the Council may be in breach of several statutory obligations in respect of information gathering, numerous inadequacies in the equalities impact assessment conducted ahead of the consultation and finally the council may have breached the doctrine of legitimate expectation by ignoring their own Trafford Compact.

HOOTLibrary believes these pages represent the most systematic and authoritative available analysis of the council’s proposals for Old Trafford Library.
We call upon Trafford Council to apply the principles of evidence-based policy, to consider the full implications of their idea, to show the courage and wisdom to admit any misjudgment before it is too late, and to fundamentally rethink their plans for Trafford’s library services.

Prepared and submitted by Hands Off Old
Trafford Library, March 3rd 2012.

February 13, 2012

HOOT Library – The Movie!

On National Library Day, dozens of local residents braved the snow, sleet and ice to join in the filming of HOOTLibrary – The Movie. And now here it is, in all its wonderful glory.

It took a fair bit of effort to make, and an awful lot of hard work from Roop and the team to film and edit, so please don’t let it go to waste. Do your bit to try to make sure it is seen by as many people as possible in Old Trafford and beyond. Share it, send the link, tell your friends – and above all, get them to fill in the consultation on the Council’s Website.

 

NEIGHBOURHOOD FORUM

Last week, about 120 residents came down to St John’s Centre for the Neighbourhood Forum. A brilliant turnout, and without exception every resident expressed strong objections to the council’s plans.

Points raised repeatedly from the table discussions included collective dismay that the council thought it was more sensible to remove all the staff from Old Trafford and Hale libraries, rather than sharing the pain around all of the council’s libraries. Issues around shortcomings in the Equalities Impact Assessment were raised, so too was the belief that Old Trafford is effectively being punished for its tradition of voluntary action and its strong community.

Deputy Leader Alex Williams did his best to get away without answering or addressing any of the points raised – saying they would announce their response to the consultation after it closes on March 5th. Residents refused to accept that, and demanded that he stay behind for another 15 minutes to answer questions raised from the floor.

It was a brilliant occasion from our point of view. The council could have been left in no doubt that Old Trafford says no.

February 1, 2012

More press & blog coverage


Good coverage of theVoluntary Sector Compact issue from the MEN / Advertiser today

You might also want to read an excellent blog post by Trafford-based journalist Flic Everett on the Trafford Labour Party blog.

 

“Volunteer” is such a cheerful word. It conjures up smiling, retired ladies, keen to do their bit for the community, or eager Dads getting up at dawn, to coach the local under-nines. What it does not, and should never mean, however, is an army of the untrained and unpaid, replacing employees who have devoted their lives to doing their jobs well.

 

(Please note: HOOT Library is not aligned to any political party. We will however accept support from across the political spectrum)

January 30, 2012

Important dates for your diary

DATE 1 – SATURDAY FEBRUARY 4th  – National LIbraries Day – DAY OF ACTION, 2-4pm.

Shrewsbury Street, St Bride’s Field and / or St Bride’s Church.

A little group of us got together to plan what we could do for the Day of Action. We wanted to send a message to the  council in a fun and imaginative way.

We’re pleased to announce that Union Street Media Arts have agreed to take on the production of HANDS OFF OLD TRAFFORD LIBRARY – THE MOVIE!

We won’t spoil the surprise here, but suffice to say we want hundreds of residents to turn up at 2pm or as soon as you can after that, and make your contribution. It will be fun, creative, and not too demanding or embarrassing for you!  We’ll get the film edited ASAP, uploaded to YouTube and shared everywhere we can, including sending the link directly to all the Councillors and key staff and urging them to watch.

Please cancel all plans and get yourself down there. Bring every friend, neighbour, family member or colleague you can muster.

As well as making the movie, we’ll arrange some other activities. Most important one is getting as many people as possible to fill out the Council’s consultation document and sign petitions etc. We’ll also sort out a little PA and mic to make a little ‘speaker’s corner’ somewhere. If anyone wants to say a few words, or if anyone knows any poets or musicians who would like to take the mic for 5 minutes that would be brilliant. If it’s nice, all of this will be outside, if it’s ‘Manchester in February’ weather we’ve arranged access to the public lobby areas of St Bride’s Church, just next door.

And of course it is National Libraries Day. Sure Start are arranging activities for children in the library until 4pm, so if you’ve got kids bring them along and take them inside, it would be good if we could help make National LIbraries Day a success inside the library, as well as making our point outside.

There will be plenty of help needed on the day, so if you can get down a bit early and  / or stay beyond the end to help tidy up, that would be much appreciated.

DATE 2 – TUESDAY FEBRUARY 7th  – SPECIAL NEIGHBOURHOOD FORUM ON LIBRARIES PROPOSAL – 6.30 – 8pm

St John’s Centre, St John’s Road, Old Trafford M16 7GX

This special forum has been organised to give residents the opportunity to directly discuss and debate these proposals with senior council staff and executive councillors.

It’s very important that everyone with an opinion on this comes along to tell the council exactly how we feel. It is so important that we show them the depth and breadth of feeling in the area about this. Again, please cancel everything to be there, and bring everyone you can. Tell your friends, tell anyone and everyone! There are 150 seats in St John’s Centre. Let’s make sure every one of them is filled.

We’ve knocked up a quick poster to advertise both events. If you’re able to download this and print off some copies of this (ideally in colour)   please do so – we really need to get these in every shop window (and a fair few house windows) in Old Trafford in the next day or two.

Thanks for your support.


January 10, 2012

Organise!

The first formal meeting of the Hands Off Old Library campaign was held tonight and was a fantastic success. Around 30 people made it down on a bleak winter evening and there was a fast, furious, occasionally chaotic burst of energy, ideas and questions.

The crucial outcomes were something like this:

A sub-group has formed to arrange and prepare a delegation to meet with council representatives at the earliest opportunity, where they will seek clarification of many unanswered questions about the proposals and continue to press our case against.

Another sub-group is forming to plan two events during National Libraries week, January 30th – February 4th. The first should be a public meeting, where we will invite representatives of the Council executive to put their case, answer questions and listen to the views of residents.

The second will be some sort of event or day of action for Saturday February 4th. That will require as many hands and heads as possible to get involved and help out. If you can in any way help with organisation, do please send us an email through the contact page on this site, or leave us a message below.

We will also soon have an online petition to accompany the hard copy currently being signed (around 1,000 times so far and counting) at OT Community Centre and elsewhere. Watch this space.

Finally, if you have any ideas for campaigning or useful contacts, do please let us know. Watch this space for updates.

December 22, 2011

Campaign group meeting

All residents and supporters are invited to a campaign group meeting, Tuesday January 10th, 5-6pm. Old Trafford Community Centre, Shrewsbury Street.

In the meantime, Happy Christmas everyone.

December 19, 2011

Press coverage round up

Photo by KF, creative commons license

Last Monday (December 12th) the Council executive met, and as expected they agreed to put forward the proposed 2012/13 budget through to consultation and scrutiny.

Both Trafford borough newspapers used our campaign as their main angle for their coverage. The Messenger had this story by Rick Bowen, featuring a handsome line-up of familiar faces on their front page:

WAR OF WORDS: Campaigners say No to library cuts.

The Trafford Advertiser (MEN) ran a couple of stories over the week – this one in response to our open letter on the 12th:

Campaigners to fight council plans over libraries

…and this one by Katherine Vine  in their Advertiser coverage on the 14th

Objectors will not co-operate with Trafford council’s cost-cutting plan

There was also a shorter version of the story in the main Manchester Evening News paper edition that goes out across Greater Manchester.

As for the national press, The Guardian website picked up on the Open Letter within hours of the campaign launching, and ran an extended excerpt on this page here:

Society Daily

And then as the icing on the cake, and perhaps the most surprising piece of coverage we’ve had… the arch-conservative Sunday Express ran a generally positive piece on Sunday 18th (with a great headline too):

FIGHTING THE BIG UNCARING SOCIETY

All in all, we got just about all the coverage we could have hoped for and then some. It’s probably safe to say we have launched with a bang – but the real campaign starts here.

December 12, 2011

Responses to our open letter

Image by Phil Bradley

Our open letter was sent to every Trafford Councillor on Friday. We have already had several responses. Most notable is the following, from acting Chief Executive Theresa Grant. We reprint it here with her permission. We’ll add no comment for now, please add your own below.

I refer to the open letter you have circulated regarding Old Trafford Library and the further letter issued this evening.

I fully understand your concern at the changes we are proposing and would like to take this opportunity to address them.

Now that the Council have announced its budget proposals, we will complete a 13 week period of public consultation. We have produced a comprehensive consultation document which is being sent to everyone who uses Old Trafford library and will be available in the library and on the Councils website.

Old Trafford has such a strong community and it is for this very reason that we are proposing to ask volunteers to take over some of the duties currently carried out by Trafford Council staff.

There is no intention to reduce access to the library services that are currently enjoyed by the residents of Old Trafford and on that basis the library is not at risk of closure. In fact, the proposals include extending the service to offer eBooks, and where residents cannot afford an eBook reader we will have some available to loan. We are also going to remove the current charges to loan audio books.

All of the back office support currently enjoyed by Old Trafford library will be retained. This includes access to the whole of the Boroughs book stock and new books. The building will continue to be maintained by the Council and the meeting room will still be available to book. These proposals are clearly designed to keep the library open and accessible to the public, unlike other Council’s who have proceeded with closing libraries such as Hulme, as you have pointed out in your letter.

There are services provided in Old Trafford library which are outside of those traditionally associated with a library. These include help and advice around council tax and housing benefits. We recognise the importance of these services and in order to maintain them, we will retain one full time member of Council staff who will also oversee the library provision. In addition, we will provide telephone and video links to our call centre to avoid customers having to wait.

I would welcome your engagement in the process of consultation on the future of Old Trafford library and the Director of the service, Mike Lewis, will be in touch with you shortly to arrange a meeting to discuss our proposals in more detail.

On behalf of the campaign, Tahira replied to say we will be happy to meet with Council representatives once we have had the chance to discuss it among ourselves and agree representatives.

We’ve also had some very positive responses from other elected members.

Trafford Mayor, Jane Baugh (Labour councillor for Priory)

Dear All,
You are to be commended on your letter
Cllr. jane baugh

Our own (Clifford, Labour) councillor Sophie Taylor got in touch to say:

“This proposal is wrong on so many levels and I will be fighting this decision all the way to ensure it is not executed. Old Trafford does have a very strong history of community and voluntary sector lead work, however this does not negate the requirement for appropriately qualified and experienced professionals to run to the library effectively. This proposal is insulting and demeaning to both community volunteers and professional library staff. These attacks and vandalism to our valuable services and staff are wholly unacceptable and I as a ward councillor will fight this every inch of the way.”

And last but not least, our MP Kate Green (Labour, Stretford & Urmston) gave us this quote to release to press:

“I am very disappointed about the lack of consultation with local people in Old Trafford. Volunteers do a brilliant job but they cannot take the place of experienced and qualified staff. The Council need to seriously reconsider the impact that these proposals will have.”

And from her blog last week, Kate said:

“And now even our libraries face extra cuts. This week we discovered that Trafford Council wants all the staff at Old Trafford library to be replaced with unpaid volunteers.

Local people have already said they won’t stand for that. Old Trafford made the national news: the Guardian newspaper picked up on the story this week.

Professional staff do a professional job, and they’re entitled to be paid for it. I have to say this refusal by local people to take on the running of Old Trafford library is the first time I’ve seen any community refusing to take on the jobs of paid workers and do them for nothing. But I’m not surprised to see Old Trafford is the first to be fighting back.

I just hope the strength of local opposition to the plans will make Trafford council think again.”

We’ll share any more responses as they come in.

December 10, 2011

Social media pages

 

 

Just a quick one to let you know we now have a Facebook Group on http://www.facebook.com/groups/hootlibrary

We also have a Twitter feed on @hootlibrary

Please join us, follow us, like us, poke us or otherwise hook up! More news soon.

We’ve given the site a bit of a design rejig tonight. We can now leave the introduction post to the left as a “sticky” and new posts will appear in this column. Look OK to you? Let us know if you hate it or love it or have any suggestions. Comments welcome below.

And just to brighten up your weekend, have a song which could quite possibly become our theme tune!

More news and updates coming soon.

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.