The announcements in the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) show that the government’s cuts to local government will continue for the coming years, even while demand for our services such as adult social care continues to grow. On current projections, and if the Government does not change course, councils including Lewisham will reach a point where we have no money left for anything other than adult social care, children’s care, and collecting refuse.
Libraries are something we all feel very passionately about, but based on the above scenario being played out over the next few years, we will need to re-asses how our money is spent and ensure that we continue to protect the most vulnerable in our borough. That means using our discretion as politicians about how we make ends meet in order to still be able to provide the most vital of these services, like social care.
Where libraries are concerned we have an opportunity to be innovative and creative in a way that isn’t always possible in areas such as social care, where the local authority, with its expertise, remains in control. Our plans for the libraries allow us to work with the community for which they serve and open up possibilities for a new model of library.
We also have to be realistic about changes in the habits of library users, and changes in the level of usage of our libraries. Any drop in book borrowing is not in and of itself a reason to change wholesale our library provision, but it does highlight the new ways in which our residents access information, and we must be ready and willing to change and adapt with them.
Libraries continue to play an important part in the lives of our residents, and whilst we have to make changes that we may not have had to consider with a different government in power, we are clear that any changes made to our libraries provision will be done from a Labour perspective, and we will ensure that Lewisham continues its provision of a library service.
These are undoubtedly difficult times, but we are determined that instead of giving up because of the enormity of the task we face, we do what a Labour Council should, and that is to protect the most vulnerable in society and continue to provide services where we are able to, even if it means rethinking the way in which they are provided.
Having a library provision of some kind is better than no library provision at all.