Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Library cuts may hit most vulnerable

CONCERNS that cuts in Edinburgh's world-renowned library services will hit the most vulnerable, and worsen problems of unemployment, lack of literacy, poverty and the exclusion have been expressed at a public meeting in Leith attended by 70 local people.

Edinburgh East Save Our Services and Greater Leith Against the Cuts had called the meeting on 5 March 2012 to discuss the planned changes to library services throughout the city, which are part of a wider programme of funding cuts.

 Edinburgh Council has carried out a consultation recently, and among the changes it proposes are an expansion of services in some libraries, and new facilities at Dumbrae. But an overall reduction of £250,000 is planned - reduced from £550,000 after a vigorous local anti-cuts campaign.

Unison says that the cuts will hit rural and more vulnerable communities, that there will be reductions of 4-9 hours a week across an number of libraries, cuts in Sunday opening hours, and the termination of temporary staff contracts contracts. 

Campaigners - who include people on low and fixed incomes, older people, families with small children and carers - say that libraries are not just about books: they are hubs for a range of local services and play an important wider role in combatting literacy problems, promoting education and all-age learning, safeguarding jobs and providing a meeting point for the otherwise housebound and isolated. 

Councillors were left with no doubt that users, workers, authors and communities will be struggling hard to maintain their libraries, book clubs for children and related services. They are being asked to scrap the cuts, and if not to defer the decision until after the elections on 3 May 2012.

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