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5 live and the cuts

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Hasit Shah | 13:11 UK time, Friday, 8 April 2011

Preston Library

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.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    I think you need to be careful to report the story and not editorialise. Bit too much partisanship in the piece I think. Apparently, according to Helen Boaden, impartiality is in your genes?!

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 3.

    What a great idea Carrie.

    What about a blog on how much of our money is being wasted on moving 5Live to Salford? That would surely save a few libraries!

  • Comment number 4.

    None of the commenters have actually read the piece. This has nothing to do with BBC funding! The licence fee has nothing to do with taxes.

    Obviously you don't object to taxpayers money being diverted and misspent by local councils?

    Big fancy libraries that you have to travel half way across town to get to are a terrible idea. Typical labour centralisation. Libraries are for communities, they are supposed to be convenient for the USERS not council officers. And to ignore a LIBRARY consultation because lirbary users have responded?!? Its Orwellian.

    And RyanW - its a blog post, not a broadcast story. Its supposed to take a view. It is impartial, all views are represented. The story is that people have taken a strong view and are being ignored, perhaps, you would ignore this??

  • Comment number 5.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 6.

    B Lister, I read the post. It was about cuts. I would like to see cuts to the BBC largesse and more money for libraries... sure one is centrally funded and one is largely locally funded but the principle holds.

    And I thought that the post wasn't that balanced and weighted against cuts and cuts to libraries.

  • Comment number 7.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 8.

    Hi,

    Not sure where else to put this, but once again there is no facility to listen to the commentary of tonight's Champions league match online despite the 5live sport website having a link to it. If it's not going to be online because of rights restrictions, could this not be made clear?

  • Comment number 9.

    If you click on commentaries it actually states the game is not avaliable online,i would still like to know why talkSPORT can put their commentary online but 5live cannot?

  • Comment number 10.

    RyanW, what precisely is balance? Is it giving all sides the right to have their say? Then the article does this. If you 50% for and 50% against, then the article becomes meaningless. The article states the facts as they are, if they do not seem balanced then that is because the situation is not balanced. The strength of feeling in Brent is huge, and the article has to reflect this. For your information, 82% of the public came out against the library closure. That proportion is reflected, and the journalist has not just simply privileged to voice of the powerful against the much louder voice of the public. The situation is not 50:50, so why should the article skew this in pursuit of some nonsensical concept of 'balance'.

    I also find it rather amusing that people who use BBC wesbites, watch BBC tv and listen to BBC radio complain so loudly about it. Cuts have nothing to do with the licence fee and everything to do with politicians. Blaming the BBC is pointless in this case and lets those responsible off the hook.

  • Comment number 11.

    But B Lister, the licence fee is actually determined by the Culture Minister. Hence how the BBC spends its money is important because if it is deemed to be wasted on for example, sending "star" reporters or news readers to events that could easily be covered by the in place journalist, there will be a perception in government that the BBC is profligate. I personally do not see why anyone working at the BBC should have a taxi to take them to work, for example. Why on earth do we licencepayers pay for the Match of the Day crew to be shipped to London for the programme every week, by cab? Why should we pay for Shelagh to be picked up, as she mentioned this morning? Everyone has to get to work whatever the time and if she hasn't got a car that is her look out. The millions spent on taxis every year would pay for something new to be developed by the BBC that would be of value to licence payers.

    Why on earth my posts have been pulled I do not know. I see a direct link in the similarity between local government cuts and money wasted by yet another national giant and massive money eater, the BBC. I also stand by the point I made in one of my posts, and that is that better for example to have four good libraries dotted about a town than six poor ones. As I said, my local library is a DVD and CD rental shop. Homework clubs should be run at schools and not in libraries if that is one of the reasons they are needed to be kept open - banks of computers for kids are available there.

 

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