Swindon library closures show consequences of squeezed council funds

Save Swindon libraries protesters

Commenting on plans finalised today to shut ten of Swindon’s fifteen libraries and reduce the opening hours of the remaining buildings, UNISON South West regional secretary Joanne Kaye said:

“With only five libraries left, Swindon will lose the expertise and experience of staff, and the service will be harder to access for older people or those with young children – exactly the groups who benefit most from a high quality public library system.

“Do we want to see Swindon left with three times as many people per library as the national average? Local people rightly expect a decent level of public services, but the government’s failure to properly fund councils has resulted in a threadbare net of services struggling to deal with people’s needs.

“It is a mark of the Tory government’s incompetence that Swindon councillors were told off by the minister in London for making these cuts to libraries, when it is the lack of investment overseen by the minister’s own government that has led to this situation.

“This is not the end of the road – UNISON will keep fighting to protect the libraries and the staff whose jobs are at risk. Anyone concerned about losing their libraries should write to their councillors and MP to call for fair funding.”

Further info

  • Library staff were today (22.12.16) informed of the process for reducing the number of libraries and other associated changes agreed at Swindon council cabinet on 7 December and signed off by the scrutiny committee on 12 December
  • Despite gains of saving the Parks Library and getting the Council to look in more depth at a possible Library Trust which may attract additional support ogovernment, 10 libraries will close on 31 August 2017 unless the parishes want to fund keeping some of them open.
  • From April 2017 the 5 core libraries will open for reduced hours and the 10 which are due to close will only open for 15 hours a week unless existing hours are less until August.
  • The majority of staff will need to make expressions of interest for the new jobs across the core libraries, although voluntary redundancy will be considered before any compulsory redundancies. Staff will have to wait until the end of the consultation process in March 2017 to know if they will have a job beyond
  • The proposed changes would leave Swindon with one library per roughly 40,000 residents, compared to a UK average of one per 13,000.
  • Libraries minister Rob Wilson MP was reported to have called in officials from Swindon regarding the cuts on 10 December.
  • Swindon council has said it needs to cut expenditure by £80m by 2020/21 to deal with rising social care costs and falling government support.