A protest against council cuts to library services at the re-opening of Carnegie Library in Herne Hill. A protest against council cuts to library services at the re-opening of Carnegie Library in Herne Hill. Photo: John Lubbock / CC BY-SA 2.0, license linked at bottom of article

Tower Hamlets Council workers and residents are taking action against plans to severely cut library services, reports Kridos Pavlou, Assistant Branch Secretary of Tower Hamlets Unison

Council workers and residents in Tower Hamlets are up in arms at the attempt to run down the council’s library service. A proposal that went to Cabinet early in January proposes slashing 35 jobs in the Library service, around 1 in 5 of the workforce.

Cubit Town Library will close completely and services at Bethnal Green Library and the Idea Store Watney Market will be run down. Sunday opening hours will also be cut. The proposed closure of Cubitt Town library will leave a huge swathe of the borough without a library.

As the proposal concedes, older people, people with disabilities and children will be adversely affected as “children would be less likely to travel further unsupervised” and people with disabilities “would need to travel further and may not have the support needed to do so”.

The reduced hours at Bethnal Green library and Watney Market Idea Store workers fear, will be the precursor to their eventual closure. Bethnal Green library is central to a huge chunk of the overcrowded north west of the borough.

Watney Market Idea Store services an even bigger area and was only recently completed being part built with lottery money.  Within a few years of its completion the borough are running it down. As an Idea Store worker said,

“Tower Hamlets has for the last twenty years held up the Idea Stores as a fantastic success and shown council leaders and librarians across the country how to run a successful library service.  Cutting hours and limiting services is the first nail in the coffin of ruining that legacy”. 

As the first step in opposing these cuts the council unions have organised an online protest, “Save Our Libraries” on Tuesday 19 January 2021 at 7pm, with award-winning children’s author Alan Gibbons speaking. The protest is supported by Unison, Unite and the GMB trade unions. Join on Zoom: Meeting ID: 836 7552 0092 Passcode: THLib

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