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.

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22 Responses to “Open letter: We are the big society, and we say No!”

  1. I’m in.

    Ally Fogg, co-ordinating editor, Old Trafford News.

  2. I will be the first one to sign this on behalf of the Old Trafford Liaison Group and Old Trafford Multicultural Women’s Group.

    Tahira Khan

  3. no longer living in the U.K. so i cant physically help out in any way, but i just want to offer my support to a worthy cause, old trafford library and community centre is a valuable resource for the local community, it was a great asset for my eldest daughter when we lived there and im sure my son would have made use of it as well, i know many families who have used the services provided over the years and i cannot understand how the government can even think about taking this local treasure away

  4. i’m in too.

  5. Appalling proposal from Trafford Council.

    Lesley Swann, editor at Community Index and Old Trafford resident.

  6. I’m in.
    Old Trafford resident and library customer.

  7. On behalf of students of St. Bride’s ESOL for Women course, I want to lend my full support to the campaign to retain the Old Trafford library services as they now are. A group of students met with me regularly during the summer in the library and commented on how exceptional the library was in that they had received top-class professional assistance in a very friendly and welcoming atmosphere. Please don’t put such good service at risk.

    Marysia Kolodziej, ESOL tutor.

  8. Old Trafford Library is a great resource. As a busy, active volunteer and small business owner, I can’t imagine that volunteers and community members will be able to take on such a specialist activity. Old Trafford has many, many needs and volunteers have their hands full! We need our professional librarians! I’m appalled that this important community asset is under threat.
    Laura Gaither, Old Trafford Resident, Wow-OT member, Trees for Old Trafford, Litter Free OT

  9. I represent no organisation other than myself but I support you completely and hope you can stop this sickening attempt to get people to work for free.

  10. Please add my name Jeanette McLaughlin

  11. Never done this before ! blogging I mean

  12. Please add my name to this, Im in too!

  13. Old Trafford people need the Old Trafford Library service and the service needs to be run by professional librarians. The suggestion to staff it with volunteers would be laughable if times weren’t so serious…

  14. Yes WFA is in it too. For the 33 years we’ve been here, the Old Trafford Library has been such a hub in the community and it’s gone from strength to strength. It’s a crime to think that all those benefits, and human and community investment could be dissipated with this action with total disregard for the vital needs it meets in the community.

  15. Do not do this, it’ll be a total disaster for the people of Old Trafford.
    Hands Off Our Library!

  16. I should probably point out that Old Trafford Library hasn’t had a “professional’ librarian in post for a number of years, in fact Trafford as a whole no longer has any posts in the library service which require the degree level professional librarian qualification, these disappeared in the restructure last year. It’s important you know this before arguing a case for a professional service as you’ll be asking for something which hasn’t existed for a number of years.
    What this appalling suggestion will mean is the loss of the knowledge and experience of the staff who know their community and it’s needs so well.

  17. I MASSIVELY suggest that you play the “Equalities” card – ASAP. Contact EHRC in Manchester. That’s what saved Wirral in 2009 and several others this last month. Jim

  18. Thanks everyone, especially constructive comments from JennyR and Jim O’Neill.

    We’re aware of the obligations for an Equalities impact assessment, and we’ll be finding out more about that v. shortly. EHRC are a great idea, cheers.

    The point is well made about “professional” librarians. I’m not sure that I’d accept the OTL staff are not “professional”, precisely because of the knowledge and experience you mention, although they may not be fully qualified. It’s worth bearing in mind the distinction. We should certainly be wary of making claims about ‘qualified’ librarians.

  19. I think the council should find an alternative way of cutting down on the budget other than to get rid of hard working people who have done a very good job serving this community.
    I am a local resident and a shopkeeper.

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