A storm of protest is building against “savage” cuts that could see 17 of Bristol’s 27 libraries close.
Mayor Marvin Rees unveiled proposals to withdraw funding from more than half of the city’s facilities in June as part of a bid to save £1.4m from the ever-stretched public purse.
But campaigners are calling on the council to reconsider its plans to reduce the number of libraries, something they say are “the lifeblood of Bristol.” Petitions have been launched to try and save the service that is under threat like never before.
Love Bristol Libraries is a city-wide group of volunteers formed to oppose a previous round of cuts and members have expressed their dismay at once again having to fight for facilities that they say should be accessible for all.
A petition launched by the campaign group calls on the council to reconsider the length and format of the consultation, look into alternative solutions and seek resources to keep more libraries open.
Val Cobbin, of Love Bristol Libraries said: “Libraries are the lifeblood of our communities – a place where all ages, races and creeds can go to be entertained, informed or get involved with their community.
“The consultation currently being run by the council certainly doesn’t feel like a genuine consultation for the 13 which are threatened with closure under all the options you can select.”
Local area campaign groups are also adding to pressure on the council to rethink its cost-cutting plans and petitions to save individual libraries are gaining momentum.
A spokesperson for the newly formed Save Redland Library group said: “We are incensed at the savagery of the library cuts and we decided to come together to campaign against the cuts.
“We can’t stand back and let this happen. Redland Library means so much to the local community”.
A petition has been launched to save the library that has been at the heart of the Redland community for more than 100 years and a packed public meeting held in the Whiteladies Road premises heard calls for a united response across the city to oppose the proposals.
There was a collective cry of ‘none of the above’ as the options on the table were discussed – each outlines plans to cut funding, but places different weighting on the criteria which takes into account building sustainability, community need, usage and location.
Deputy mayor Asher Craig has stressed that the proposals are not a done deal and the purpose of the consultation is to hear people’s views, which will help to inform the final decision.
“These proposals offer the opportunity to explore a range of possibilities which will transform the service, including where and how it is provided,” said Craig.
“Our options aim to provide a library service that best meets the needs of the whole city based on need and suitability.
“We appreciate that local people are understandably protective of their local libraries. However, with a smaller budget and many of our libraries needing investment, the proposals we are putting forward will offer sustainable library services into the future that people across the city can access.”
Libraries are just one of the services set to be hit by the cuts, with school crossing patrols, community links and public toilets among those also under threat.
Bishopston, Cotham and Redland Community Partnership is hosting a public meeting in Bishopston Library on Wednesday, July 19, from 7pm – 9pm. People are invited to attend to hear more about the range of cuts and hear some of the early reactions.
All of the proposed cuts, including an interactive map of the city showing the communities that would be most strongly impacted are available online at www.bristol.gov.uk/yourneighbourhood. There are also details of a number of public consultation events.
The consultation runs until Tuesday, September 5.