Last Thursday, I attended a meeting about cuts to the opening hours of Armley library, as many libraries across Leeds are facing as part of the latest package of the Labour-run councils cutbacks. Around 30 people attended the meeting which was held in the library itself.
But it was an unusual anti-cuts meeting, in that it had been called by the Labour Party and had the councillor, Lucinda Yeadon, in charge of the draft proposals of cuts to library hours on the platform as well as another Labour councillor, Alice Smart, and the local MP Rachel Reeves.
Some people did have constructive suggestions about how the library could be better used by the community, including bringing famed writers and literary figures to inspire and help develop the talent of young people in the area. A ‘Friends of Armley Library’ group was establish to help develop this further.
But this doesn’t deal with the fundamental issue at point, the fact that the proposals mean the library’s opening hours will drop by 15%. This is a consequence of the Tories austerity cuts and the local Labour-run council passing on the cuts.
In the meeting I argued that the council should use the consultation to show how the libraries were vital facilities in communities and launch a campaign to force the government to the give the council the necessary funding to keep libraries and other services in the city intact.
Lucinda Yeadon argued in response that it was illegal for the council to not set a balanced and therefore her and other Labour councillors hands were tied. But the council wouldn’t even have to not set a balanced budget to do this, the £100,000 savings these cuts would generate could clearly be met from council reserves whilst such a campaign was built.
But the other point I raised was why couldn’t the Labour opposition guarantee that they would restore the funding to councils so they didn’t have to close services or cut jobs? This question was asked directly to Rachel Reeves herself who chose not to answer it. That silence speaks volumes about Labour’s intentions if they win the next general election to carry on with the Tory/Liberals coalition’s austerity measures.
The title of this article was ‘When Is An Anti-Cuts Meeting, Not An Anti-Cuts Meeting?’. The answer as you’re probably aware by now is when it’s called by a party committed to Tory spending plans and austerity.