Nottingham libraries protest. Photo: Save Nottingham Libraries
Nottingham libraries protest. Photo: Save Nottingham Libraries

Des Conway, Save Nottingham Libraries

I have been following with interest the Hackney Library workers struggle against Labour-controlled Hackney Council (see Hackney libraries: Labour council cuts ‘beggar belief’).

Well, here in Nottingham, our community campaign against the Labour-controlled city council to defend three libraries earmarked for closure has ended with an undoubted victory.

The Save Nottingham Libraries campaign ran a year-long battle to keep open three libraries in some of the most deprived areas in the city.

Nottingham City Council originally announced the closure of the three libraries in January 2022, and we immediately established our community campaign. We have been active ever since, energising citizens, library users and local creatives in support of these inner-city facilities, including an open letter to council leader David Mellen by 100+ local authors and poets.

The city council executive board, which met on 17 January, was lobbied and attended by the campaign. It confirmed that all three libraries will now remain open, although some will have opening hours reduced. We raised objections to the 42.5-hour total reduction in opening hours, but the main objective from the outset was keeping the libraries open and that has been achieved. Once a library or leisure centre closes it rarely gets re-opened, and that community facility is lost forever.

The council papers rightly ruled out the volunteer-led service delivery model – an excellent outcome for the staff affected, avoiding a two-tier system.

Nottingham City Council rightly condemns central government cutbacks to the authority since 2010, amounting to more than £300 million in lost revenue. However, rather than leading a fightback, the council passes on its own version of austerity measures to local residents. One of my slogans in letters sent to the local paper was “Less compliance, more defiance” but sadly that’s not likely to happen any time soon.

Finally, can I give a ‘shout-out’ to the Socialist Party members (especially Gary and Jean) who attended many of the campaign events throughout the year-long battle.

They have also supported two recent community campaigns alongside myself and others – Save John Carroll Leisure Centre and the Reverse Mobility Pass campaign.

Unfortunately, despite the campaign, John Carroll Leisure Centre was closed by the council. But because of the campaign, the council executive board reinstated 24/7 travel for all mobility pass holders in February 2020. As the Meatloaf song goes: “Two out of three ain’t bad”.