The Bromley public has been asked ‘to rise up and make their voice heard’, otherwise the borough’s 14 libraries will be privatised, with expected severe cutbacks in services.
The call to rollback the tide of local government privatisation has come from Unite, the country’s largest union, which is battling to keep Bromley’s libraries, serving a 300,000-strong population, being run by the council.
So far, Unite’s campaign has seen construction firm Carillion and a scheme run by volunteers withdraw from the bidding process, leaving only one private bidder with its hat in the ring. Unite understands that is Greenwich Leisure Limited.
To give the campaign added impetus, Unite’s library members, who number about 60, will be striking for a week from 00.01 on Saturday 1 April until 23.59 on Saturday 8 April.
The union is also organising a petition to collect the more than 500 signatures needed to force the council to debate the issue.
Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “We have notched up a couple of victories with the withdrawal of Carillion and the voluntary scheme, but the battle is not over by a long chalk.
“The council refuses to say who is the remaining bidder, but we understand that it is Greenwich Leisure Limited. This lack of transparency demonstrated by the Tory-controlled authority is an affront to local democracy.
“The council says that it will be making a decision on the library service’s future sometime in May. Unite’s firm view is that libraries are for the benefit of the public and should not be considered as a ripe source of profit for the private sector.
“Bromley’s libraries should remain ‘in house’ and to ensure that happens the public need to rise up and make their voice heard.
“We are entering a really surreal world when bricks-and-mortar construction firms are seen as suitable candidates to radiate the deep learning, through book-reading and interactive activities, that is the remit of modern libraries.
“Bromley’s libraries are well used by people from all walks of life right across the borough. They are an essential point of social contact which provide learning and enjoyment for all generations.”
Notes to editors:
For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940.
Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.