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.