Archive for December, 2011

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.

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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.

 

December 6, 2011

Open letter: We are the big society, and we say No!

UPDATED: December 9th, 5pm: This post was edited to say that the open letter has now been  sent to every single elected Trafford councillor, to acting Chief Executive Theresa Grant, and to all key local and national media and press. The list of signatories has been added at the bottom of this letter.

This letter was prepared by representatives of Old Trafford Community Liaison Group, and we hope it will be signed by anyone who agrees from Old Trafford, including volunteers, community organisers and activists, and anyone else involved in the community and voluntary sector.

The intention is to add as many names and organisations as we can by Friday, December 9th, and send the open letter to councillors, executives and the media before the Council meeting on Monday 12th.

If you would like to add your name to the letter, please give your full name, role, and organisation in the comments below, or email us

If you are not an active volunteer or involved in community activities, but would still like to help, don’t worry, there will be a petition available for you to sign in the very near future and plenty of other ways to get involved.

————-

As community activists, volunteers, and representatives of the voluntary sector in Old Trafford, we were appalled to read of proposals from Trafford Council to replace paid, professional staff at Old Trafford Library with unpaid volunteers.

Old Trafford has a magnificent tradition of volunteering and community activism. Resident volunteers in this neighbourhood have established many innovative and successful voluntary projects, and we are rightly proud of our countless achievements. However we are also quite clear about the role and purpose of the community and voluntary sector in Old Trafford: it is to complement and enhance the work of statutory services, to improve the quality of life for individuals and communities in our local area. Our role is definitely not to enable employers to make our friends, colleagues and neighbours redundant and replace them with unpaid volunteers.

We were dismayed that this proposal was made without any discussion or any apparent attempt to establish whether community groups and organisations would be willing to deliver this work, or which organisations might have capacity to do so.

Old Trafford Library is an invaluable resource for our community. The Council’s own figures show more than 80,000 annual visits,  making it one of the best used libraries in the Borough, and which is run with a lower cost per visit than most others. As one of the most economically deprived wards in Trafford Borough, the need for library services in this area is greater than most. This month, a report from the National Literacy Trust found that one third of British schoolchildren have no books at home, with children in deprived areas the most likely to be so affected. This is no time to put our library at such risk. The only other library within walking distance is Hulme Library, currently facing threat of closure by Manchester City Council.

We are deeply concerned that transformation of Old Trafford Library into a volunteer-staffed operation would have significant detrimental consequences on the services available, especially in the long term. We say now that we will actively campaign against any attempts to significantly downgrade the quality of service delivered there.

Furthermore, we assert that we will not in any way co-operate in such a transformation. The organisations we represent will not tender for this work, nor will we support, co-operate or network with any organisation that does. We will not publicise volunteering opportunities through our networks and platforms, or refer and signpost potential volunteers.

While acknowledging the desperate financial and economic situation locally and nationally, and the size of the task faced by Trafford Council in reducing costs, we do not accept that this is a reasonable, fair or sensible course of action. We would be very happy to meet with councillors or council staff to discuss our concerns and alternative courses of action.

We urge you to remove this proposal from your published plans at the first opportunity.

Prepared by Old Trafford Community Liaison Group on behalf of: (in alphabetical order)

Pete Abel, Community volunteer
Christine Aspinall, St John’s Centre
Barbara Bleeker, Trafford Volunteer Centre
Natasha Boojihawon, Union Street Media Arts
Annie Cubbin, Old Trafford Strong Hearts Group
Elaine Eland – Community activist and volunteer
Ally Fogg, Old Trafford News
Tommy Gallagher – Friends of Old Trafford
Laura Gaither, Community volunteer
Tom Hingley, Community volunteer
Rev John Hughes, St John’s Church
Marysia Kolodziej, St Bride’s ESOL for Women Group
Tahira Khan-Sindhu, Chair, Old Trafford Community Liaison Group / Old Trafford Multicultural Women’s Group
Joe Malaika – Trafford Week of Peace
Jeanette McLaughlin – Community activist and volunteer
Estelle Quinn, Community volunteer
Roop Sagar, Union Street Media Arts
Lesley Swann, Community Index
Anita Ward, Community volunteer
Gavin Wood, Community volunteer
Workers Film Association

Plus at least 160 residents to have signed the accompanying petition as of 2.30pm, Friday 9th October. Names to be published shortly online.

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.

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