5 live and the cuts
Our editors constantly remind us that for most 5 live listeners, the economy is still THE big story and is probably the top priority in our news coverage. The texts, emails etc you send bear this out.
To add to the impact people have already felt, the new financial year will bring significant cuts to services, as councils deal with big reductions in their budgets. Whatever your opinion of the timing and necessity of the cuts, you'll find that a lot of things you take for granted, whether or not you use them, might not exist any more.
For me, it's a small, unassuming building in Brent in north west London.
When I was growing up, I practically lived in Preston Library (yes, I was/am a nerd, but I did play football and chase girls too. Neither was particularly successful, unfortunately.)
I couldn't have afforded to buy all the books I wanted to read, so the library was an absolute necessity. Lauren Smith is from Voices for the Library, and spoke to Dotun on Up All Night earlier this week. Listen here to her explanation of why she thinks libraries are so important. Today, the former Cabinet Minister John Redwood has explained why he thinks they're 'too middle class'.
In Brent, the current libraries budget of almost £6m is being cut by £800,000. The council wants to close half of the borough's 12 libraries, and expand the remaining six. The plan's been in place for years, but they're only doing it now the cuts have given them the impetus. Preston will shut, and the building will be sold to developers. Simon Gurevitz is a retired management consultant, and local campaigner:
"In order the meet the not-yet-forecast demand of not-yet-identified users in the vicinity of the chosen six at some cost, libraries such as Preston have to close to pay for it, even though they are already well-used by residents in that vicinity. These residents are being told to take a bus. This is not a response to a tight budget but rather expensive social engineering with no obvious pay-off to anyone. Oh, except HQ librarians and Cllrs who want to be in charge of state-of-the-art under-used buildings"
Last week, the author Zadie Smith said that if it hadn't been for her local library in south Brent, she'd never have gone to university.
But there are also loads of ordinary people who are trying to battle through the complexities of council bureaucracy, with very little assistance, in order to make themselves heard. They say councillors aren't listening.
Councillor James Powney is in charge of libraries. Despite fierce local opposition, he's convinced that closing them is the right thing to do. 82% of respondents to a 3-month consultation - which ended after the annual budget was set - rejected the council's plan, but Cllr Powney says:
"It's a consultation, not a referendum. It's also been skewed by the fact that the people who responded negatively are mostly people who don't want libraries to close.
"It's a bit like post offices. People don't even use them and then complain when they close. What we're doing will improve the user experience, and we'll have money to promote the service to non-users."
This is a good example of what's going on throughout the country, with all sorts of services. It illustrates how decisions are made, and the extent to which the public are involved.
That's why issues like this are important to 5 live, and why we want you to tell us what's happening where you are. We have eyes and ears in many places (and there'll soon be a series of blogs written by some of our regional reporters), but we welcome useful information from listeners.