2007 - 2021

Local Community Launch Legal Challenge to Library Closure

As we inch towards the end of COVID restrictions, the crisis in Scotland’s libraries will not go away easily. As many as a quarter of Scotland’s public libraries remain closed, of those that are “open” they operate a limited service. In some cases libraries have been moved to ‘Community Hubs’ or ‘one-stop shops’ with experienced Librarians and Library assistants being replaced by Customer Service Assistants. In Glasgow the crisis is worse than most other places, the Council and their offshoot company Glasgow Life are using the cover of COVID to implement a programme of closures sell-offs and mergers. Campaigns have sprung up across the city to fight against these moves, with weekly read-ins, protest actions and representations to the City Council. Of these local campaigns perhaps the most proactive and forthright is the campaign to save the historic library at Whiteinch.

Whiteinch, for those who don’t know it, is a district on the banks of the River Clyde in the West of Glasgow. It was, at one time an island, back in the days when the Clyde was a wider and shallower free flowing river, before the days of dredging to make it a centre for trade and shipbuilding. When the island disappeared the area nearest to the banks was named after it. It developed as an industrial area, linked to the shipbuilding industry and became a ferry crossing until the opening of the Clyde Tunnel in 1963. The library was built in 1926 and has been a central focus of the community ever since. But last year plans emerged from the City Council to close the library and move the service to a leisure centre in a neighbouring district. The reaction from the community has been an overwhelming rejection of these plans.

Built on strong community links forged in active and existing community groups, the users of the library and a strong and proactive Community Council a small group of organisers were quick off the mark, organising weekly meet ups at the library where children would have read-ins, performers would play music and people would come together to share their ideas and skills. A small organising committee was formed bringing together a group of people with the right range of skills and experience to challenge the Council’s plans.

They quickly gathered the information and data that they needed to combat the plans, pointing out the demographics of the area, the high levels of poverty and the diverse nature of their local communities – people who relied on the library, who needed the resource and saw it as a central point of Whiteinch.  They launched their own Community Consultation in response to the lack of consultation by Glasgow City Council and Glasgow Life.

A series of targeted FOI requests were sent off to the Council, they analysed the community based on the SIMD index and, building on the fact that information is strength, have proved to be a very effective example of good old-fashioned community organising.

Whiteinch is a community that has faced devastation over the years due to previous Council plans, the building of the Clyde Tunnel took away their main shopping centre and a large portion of the local park, they lost (like many Glasgow communities) their local swimming pool, but this time they are not for giving in.

Last week the campaign engaged the campaigning lawyer/activist Mike Dailly to launch a legal challenge to the closure, seeking a judicial review. Dailly maintains that a judicial review at the Court Of Session is appropriate based on three point of challenge.

  1. GCC has not carried out an Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) in advance of its decision to close or never re-open the library. As a public body, local authorities are subject to the public sector equality duty (PSED) in section 149 of the 2010 Equality Act. The closure of the library is having – and will have – an adverse impact on people who would otherwise use it. That includes groups with “protected characteristics” in law in relation to age, sex, race and disabilities. Those groups include children and young people; the visually impaired, those with dementia or mental health problems; asylum seekers and those from BAME communities; and young mother’s groups.
  2. GCC has not discharged its Fairer Scotland Duty under section 1 of the 2010 Act. This duty concerns the need to make strategic decisions that reduce inequalities that result from poverty. The Whiteinch Library catchment area covers some of Clydeside’s most deprived areas: Whiteinch, South Scotstoun & South Yoker. Many of these communities are recognised as being in Scotland’s poorest quintile in the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation. The library is an essential lifeline for those who are unemployed and looking for work.
  3. The final area of challenge is the lack of any consultation with local people. Giving some local groups three minutes to speak to a council committee last week wasn’t formative consultation by any stretch of the imagination. The courts have held that a duty of consultation will exist where there is a legitimate expectation of consultation arising from an interest sufficient to create such expectation. Rights to consultation have been found to exist where a council proposed to close a care home without consulting the residents and where schools were to be closed without consulting parents.

This legal challenge could prove a key moment for all of the local campaigns fighting to save local assets in Glasgow and across Scotland. All of us will be watching cloely to see the result of this action.

In the meantime, if you are concerned about services in your own local area, you could do worse than look to Whiteinch as an example of how to organise and fight back against decisions taken over your community’s head, behind closed doors.

Please sign the petition at https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/save-whiteinch-library. And if you are local to the area please fill in Whiteinch Library usage survey, which is being used to collect information on library users’ needs: https://forms.gle/xNPfx6YYCeuzJHVT6

Finally, all good campaigns need a campaign song, local songwriter Iain Mutch rose to that particular challenge – enjoy!

 

 

Comments (22)

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  1. Wul says:

    Great work everybody involved in this protest.

    When did council managers switch from being guardians and custodians of local assets to asset strippers? If councils are so short of funding, why don’t we see senior council managers marching en-masse to Holyrood to demand a realistic budget? What are they all so scared of?

    They would rather sneak aboot, pawning off the best bits of our neighbourhoods, hurting the people who pay their wages, than stick their neck oot, and risk being a “loose canon” telling the truth; Glasgow Live is shite, it disnae work, public services are being strangled to death.

    The things that are most precious to poor people are seen as dispensable luxuries by these clock-watching cowards.

    How about finding some cut-backs or “savings” in the various “Performance & Development”, “Strategic Policy”, “Quality Assurance”, “Estates Management”, “Corporate Blah” and other bullshit departments?

  2. Tom Ultuous says:

    Could all physical libraries throughout the world not be replaced with a single online library? Is this practical? Is it desirable? I don’t know.

    1. Mouse says:

      If you don’t know, maybe you should go to the library and read more 🙂 If you really do want to peer at a phone or something, your library probably provides international online content already. It works well for music (Naxos international), and magazines (Libby international), but I guess that reading a book on a phone is a last resort (also Libby international).

      1. Tom Ultuous says:

        I say I don’t know because I’m unsure if they fill other needs for people. Personally I’d much rather download the text of a book rather than thumb through a paperback that’s covered in someone else’s dinner and polluted with hairs used as placeholders. TBH carbon based life forms gie me the willies.

    2. Colin Robinson says:

      Yep, I think physical libraries are going to be superseded as portals by virtual ones. More and more public services are being made accessible online, precluding the need to go further than your laptop, smartphone, or tablet to access them.

      1. James Mills says:

        There are still many ( ?) people , like me , who much prefer the physical experience of visiting an actual building and having the tactile joy of thumbing through books rather than the soulless clicking of a few keys to access their knowledge/information/entertainment .
        There is also , for some , the companionship ( if brief ) of engaging with others in a library during what may be an otherwise lonely existence .

        1. Colin Robinson says:

          Indeed, physical libraries can also fulfil an aesthetic and a social function. As symbols of old-time municipal socialism, they can also fulfil a conservative political function, an issue around which the faithful can rally and seek converts to its cause.

          1. Rich says:

            The idea of libraries going online misses the point that , for a lot of people , the library is the one place they can go online and perhaps get a document printed off . We read this using our machines but many others cannot because they are too poor.
            CR’s first remarks clearly miss this point .
            Combining libraries with services like CAB , Claimants Unions , Credit Unions , Community Councils , meeting rooms for local or civic groups , adult literacy – you name it – whoever needs space and whoever needs their services – validate them as neighbourhood hubs that serve to maintain cohesion and coherence .

            CR’s second ‘contribution’ doesn’t follow the sense of the thread and is not just political bait but his second sentence doesn’t make sense within itself .
            Having seen CR’s many contributions to other discussions I have to say that this contributor is merely seeking attention or amusement through supposed engagement . He is using vaguely provocative but non-committal posts and , on response , he will shift his ground as well as the point/s he raised or diverts to . He is merely looking to post but needs respondents which accounts for his volume .
            This is dishonest , manipulative and an abuse of what is otherwise a straightforward exchange of opinion and information .

          2. Colin Robinson says:

            Yes, I’ve long advocated the repurposing of public spaces like libraries as resources centres, where people can access not only the technology they need to obtain goods and services online, but also the skills/assistance they need to use that technology.

  3. Gary says:

    The legacy of a decade of a council tax freeze is now showing it’s impact.

  4. Paul Bassett says:

    Wings Over Scotland RIP. But won’t we need something like it again – and soon?
    https://stageleft.blog/…/01/broken-wings-bath-votes-snp/

  5. Justin Kenrick says:

    Libraries are probably the most important buildings in our communities.

    The books are cover for a multitude of real needs being met

    – people being able to be alone and be with others, without having to buy something – a space for solitude and for contact, for the reassurance of being in a shared world that is real not online, for the reassurance that money does not need to rule,

    – kids or older folk meeting each other informally,

    – community organised events,

    – noticeboards and information, access to the internet and to newspapers,

    – youth coming for a different kind of parenting from librarians who are often having to show real skill in childminding and reponding to the ‘misbehaving’ of youths anxious for some real contact

    If a library remains closed, maybe it needs to be occupied and opened.

    A campaign to keep space for community open, not just a campaign against the closures?

    1. Jim Monaghan says:

      There are lots of aspects, tactics and strategies in this or any other campaign. I suggest that you find out more as that tactic and others are not ruled out. Their community consultation, so far, looks at taking over other space near the library too. But what is needed is the library opened with the full financial backing of the council, with the workers jobs reinstated and not done by volunteers.

    2. Colin Robinson says:

      Yes, but how many people in need of such goods actually access them through libraries? Indeed, how socially or culturally accessible are our libraries to non-readers?

      I ask this because they never seem to be particularly busy.

  6. Paula Becker says:

    Scottish councils face a shortfall of £511 million after the lockdowns of 2020/21.
    Bellacaledonia supported those lockdowns.

    (Lockdowns were a political decision taken by the SNP/Tories. Other pandemic responses were available but Sturgeon and Johnson chose to ignore them).

    1. Wul says:

      Paula,

      You’d rather have gone for “Herd Immunity” and keeping us all spending?

      £511 million doesn’t sound like much between 32 local authorities. About £16m each? Cheap I would say.

      And, then there’s this announced by Scot. Gov. last week:

      ” £257.6 million to help tackle COVID-19 approved by Parliament.

      Almost £258 million of additional funding for vital local services, such as food provision for those in need, education and social care, has been approved by the Scottish Parliament.

      The provision of a further £72 million is being agreed with COSLA and will be subject to Parliamentary approval in due course. This will bring the total additional funding provided to help Scotland’s local authorities combat coronavirus (COVID-19) to almost £330 million.

      This extra funding is on top of the local government finance settlement of £11.4 billion, which already provided an increase of £589.4 million (5.8%) compared to the previous year.

      To prevent local authorities experiencing cash flow problems the Scottish Government is providing £455 million in weekly advanced payments to councils until Parliamentary approval is secured. Councils received an additional £150 million in May, £255 million in June, and will receive £50 million in July.”

      1. Paula Becker says:

        The £511 million was the shortfall after the budget earlier in the year. You say that a further £330 million has been found to distribute to Councils – where did it come from? Did it appear by magic or has it been re-allocated from somewhere?
        As for the advanced payments – a clear acknowledgement that there’s a problem – won’t these have to be paid back?
        Before Hancock resigned he revealed that the backlog of UK patients needing treatment in the NHS was 12.2 million. How many will die, unable to access treatment, because of this backlog? How many will need help with mental health problems? How many children have been abused during lockdown? How many have had their learning or development affected?
        You might want to wait a few years before deciding that lockdowns came cheap!

    2. Colin Robinson says:

      Yep, we’ve almost achieved herd immunity through the vaccination programme and we’ve got there without the rate of infection breaking our health and social care services. I’d say the economic cost has been worth it.

      1. Paula Becker says:

        See my comment above. You have no clue of the true cost of lockdowns. You won’t know for years to come.

        1. Colin Robinson says:

          Worth it, though. You can’t put a price on people’s lives.

          1. Paula Becker says:

            Lockdowns have caused a backlog of 12.2 million UK residents waiting for NHS treatment. This will literally kill people!!

          2. Colin Robinson says:

            Lockdowns didn’t cause the backlog. The NHS backlog has been growing for much of the last decade, caused by the mismatch between NHS funding growth, the system’s activity, and the demand for care. The diversion of resources from ‘normal’ health services to deal with the pandemic only exacerbated the situation. Without the measures taken to slow the spread of the virus, the situation could have been much worse: our health services might have broken down altogether.

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