Concerted lobbying efforts by UNISON Neath Port Talbot County branch have safeguarded the future of local libraries across the region.
Skewen and Baglan libraries as well as the mobile library service and Cefn Coed Museum will be saved from closure after local councillors were impressed with the overwhelming mass public response to the union’s campaign.
Over 4,000 residents across Neath and Port Talbot Borough signed a petition initiated by UNISON Cymru Wales to tell their councillors not to close the libraries.
Branch members presented the petition to the neader of Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council and director of education on 11 January 2016 in the presence of councillors from all parties, David Rees AM, Bethan Jenkins AM, Jeremy Miles, Labour assembly candidate for Neath, and representatives from the offices of Christina Rees MP and Stephen Kinnock MP.
Celebrating the council decision, UNISON branch chair Mark Fisher said: “We would like to thank the local authority for listening to UNISON, staff and local residents over this consultation process.
“This clearly shows that consultation and partnership arrangements with the trade unions, residents, staff and users of these services have worked in keeping these services open.
“We have worked with the staff to put forward proposals for income generation and savings to assist the provision of these much needed services.
“We know that Welsh councils are under severe pressure from savage UK Conservative government funding cuts but our public services are at the heart of community life and must be saved.
“We give a heartfelt thank you to everyone who has contributed towards this fantastic campaign.”
Notes to editors
The wording of the petition is as follows: –
Cllr Jones; Cllr Llewelyn and 32 others
SAVE OUR SERVICES
Libraries are at the very heart of our communities. At present the Council is proposing to close libraries in Baglan and Skewen plus the Mobile Library Service and Cefn Coed Museum. The final decision to do this falls to you, as one of our elected Councillors.
We need you to stop this as it just isn’t right. Our local libraries are used daily by many residents for far more than the traditional book borrowing service. Closing and reducing access to libraries will remove or reduce internet access for those who do not have or can’t afford internet at home.
Many of our essential activities have to be completed on-line – this will make some of these most basic tasks impossible for the most vulnerable in our communities.
Closing local libraries places more strain on the already stretched school library services and will have an impact on continued adult education.
It is a legal obligation under the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act for our local authorities to provide a “comprehensive and efficient library service”.
We are petitioning you to oppose the proposals. We are asking you to work with the community and UNISON on finding alternative models, which will both save money and save these vital community services.