From Telegraph & Argus, October 24th, 2019
Written by Claire Lomax
ILKLEY'S MP says he will make the "strongest possible representations" for the town to keep its professionally staffed library. And the town's councillors have also said they will fight to save Ilkley Library from closure in the face of cuts to the libraries and museums service by Bradford Council. It comes as 14 days of strike action by library and museum staff across the district in the battle against the cuts began this week. The Unite union, which represents around 50 employees in the service, is spearheading the action – which started with a two-day walkout on Monday and Tuesday, resulting in the closure of Ilkley Library.
A three-day strike will follow on November 5, 6 and 7. And further stoppages are then planned between November 18-21 and December 2-6.
Ilkley's MP John Grogan said: "Bradford Council, who have lost nearly all their grant from central government, have said they will consult on their future plans for libraries in November. I am making the strongest possible representations that Ilkley along with Keighley should be amongst the libraries that continue to be professionally staffed as at present. At the same time nationally given that over 500 libraries have closed since 2010 I would strongly urge the Chancellor to make more funds available to local government in November’s budget so that the end of austerity becomes a reality rather than a slogan."
Councillor Kyle Green (Con, Ilkley) said: “As a library user and someone who knows the vital importance that this service brings, it is shocking that staff are having to fight to save Ilkley Library when until recently Bradford Council were spending £420,000 a year on the lease for the Bradford City Centre Library. Even now the council is gambling £1.4million on a City of Culture bid instead of using this money to save the most treasured cultural asset for many: our libraries.
"I have little faith that the council consultation will truly listen to the views of residents, especially given they have not done so on issues with the Ilkley parking review. Despite this I will continue to fight to secure the future of a library that helps reduce social isolation, provides a secure space to study and helps create a love of reading for children.”
Councillor Anne Hawkesworth (Ind, Ilkley) said: "Obviously I am very supportive of the key libraries being retained.
"For Ilkley library to suffer from strike action seems a little pointless as we here know and appreciate the value of it to the town and the valley. It is absolutely important that Ilkley library continues as for many of us it is so important.
"The proposed budget reduction puts a big question mark over its future.
"The essential thing is to look at the spread of cost around the library service and that mustn’t just look at Keighley and Ilkley which I fear might be the case. Residents would be appalled at the exorbitant rental contract of Bradford Library currently. It needs renegotiating."
Unite members voted by 77 per cent for strike action and 94 per cent for industrial action short of a strike.
It follows Bradford Council’s decision to cut its museums and galleries budget by £500,000 in 2020-21 and the libraries budget by £1.5 million. The council says the cuts are needed due to its funding from central government being slashed.
Unite regional officer Mark Martin said: “The 14 days of strike action are a very strong shot across the council’s bows.
“It is a wake-up call for the council to come to the table for constructive negotiations – Unite’s door is open 24/7 for such talks.The number of strike days demonstrates how passionately our members feel about the swingeing cuts that the council is hell-bent on forcing through which could see funding for this service axed by 65 per cent.
“We have had great support from members of the public.”
Bradford Council said it was “disappointed” at the strike decision.
A spokesman added: “We are disappointed that around 50 Unite members, which is about 39 per cent of our overall libraries and museums workforce, have decided to vote for strike action. It remains unclear why Unite has adopted this position and this is compounded by the fact that Unite representatives have so far turned down a number of invites to present their concerns.
“The council has finished consultation for the 2019-20 changes to the libraries and museums services and they were implemented on September 1. No libraries were closed. We believe that Unite would be better served working with us, offering its views on what can be done to achieve the savings required in the face of prolonged government cuts and helping to shape the future of our service, rather than taking this action which will primarily impact library service users and be of no benefit to staff or residents.”