Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/815/18783
Rhydyfelin library saved by campaign
Dave Reid and Caerphilly Socialist Party members
Rhydyfelin library has reopened after Rhondda Cynon Taff (RCT) council closed it for just 16 days. Over 100 people from Rhydyfelin were jubilant as the library opened and they flooded in to reclaim their library. "Sometimes you don't appreciate something until you lose it."
People celebrated a famous victory against one of the most aggressively cutting councils in Wales. There were tears of happiness from campaigners who threw their energies into saving the library including chaining themselves to the bookshelves in the 31 May occupation when the library closed. RCT Labour councillors doubtless spilt tears of frustration after being thwarted.
But campaigners know the council might come back again to close Rhydyfelin library. And they are ready to join with other communities if RCT council close another library to compensate for their failure to close Rhydyfelin. "We will help other areas reopen their library", declared Meurig Parri, a leading campaigner.
A vibrant community campaign plus the threat of a judicial review proved too much for the council. Campaigners promising to stand in the next council elections against Labour councillors also helped force the climb-down.
This library is truly loved, a bright sunny building used by all the community - toddlers, pensioners, school students doing their homework and yoga classes. When the library was threatened all these people rallied round, collecting signatures in the high street in the pouring rain. They drove around with a megaphone, held meetings, talked to the press, even made a film. Their enthusiastic campaign took their battle to victory.
Rhydyfelin library's reprieve is the biggest blow to the council so far. Other campaigns have forced a series of climb-downs. Parents also won a High Court case to prevent the abolition of full-time nursery education for three-year-olds. The sheer scale of RCT's £56 million cuts has provoked a big movement and the Rhydyfelin and nursery victories will embolden other campaigns in the borough.
When the library was scheduled to close, campaigners flooded down to the library but when the 1pm closure time arrived, they didn't go home. Four stalwarts chained themselves to the bookshelves and refused to move. A campaigner announced she was putting herself forward as an anti-cuts candidate at the next council elections.
The campaign intends to stand candidates as the fight has generated discussion about the political alternative and an interest in the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC). Some of them attended the RCT TUSC meeting. RCT TUSC intends to stand a candidate in every ward in the council elections in 2017.
Now is an opportunity to unite RCT's anti-cuts movement and learn lessons from the victories. We can still stop the current round of cuts, and prepare to resist the next round which threatens many more community facilities.
In The Socialist 18 June 2014:
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party reports and campaigns
Readers' comments and reviews