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.


3 Comments to “Responses to our open letter”

  1. First thing to say is that it is brilliant to get such fast responses. Well done us.

    I think Theresa Grant’s letter is interesting both for what it says and what it doesn’t.

    Most of it reiterates what we already knew, but I think the key passage is this:

    “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.”

    This confirms my worst suspicions – they have chosen Old Trafford precisely because we have such a strong and active community & voluntary sector, and so much volunteering. That’s outrageous, because it effectively punishes us for all our good work. It says that they don’t need to provide so many council staff in OT because those suckers will do the work for free. The moral could be seen as don’t volunteer, because if you do the council will respond by removing their staff. It’s librarians now, but what’s to stop the exact same logic being applied to street cleaners or park keepers or anyone else in the future?

    As for what it doesn’t say, I notice it doesn’t dispute or deny anything we say in the letter – including the allegations of direct job substitution and staff redundancies. I’m sure that sooner or later they’ll attempt to dress it up as ‘giving staff the option of voluntary redundancies or transfer to other duties’ but I guess they’re reluctant to commit themselves to that as yet.

    Anyone else notice anything interesting?

  2. I agree with Ally, what will they want volunteers to do next? Care for the vulnerable people in our communities? It is a slippery slope. Services like the library and services to people should not be subjected to what I perceive to be a huge gamble. Staff are trained to do jobs, they do their jobs well, as much I value the work of volunteers, there are simply some professions that should be left to the professionals.

  3. I agree. Even if it were acceptable to use volunteers, you just can’t rely on volunteers in the same way as paid staff. If a volunteer, however committed, is feeling a bit under the weather or something important comes up, what’s to stop them from just not turning up for their duty? It wouldn’t be a consistent service.

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