This week Manchester City Council’s executive committee meets to discuss the proposed budget for 2013. Included in the discussions are plans to close our local library and swimming pool here in Levenshulme, Manchester.
We had a community planning meeting, attended by more than 60 people and four local councillors. During the meeting Julie Reid, councillor for Gorton South, said “over our dead bodies will we let these pools close”.
Julie Reid represents one of the poorest areas in Europe, where child poverty, unemployment and poor health are high. Manchester has been named the child poverty capital of Britain, with 25,000 children growing up in extreme poverty.
Gorton residents regularly use the local pool since theirs closed in 2001. Anger in the area is at an all-time high. In a build-up to the decision to be made on 8 March, Friday night saw local residents, their children, and councillor Aftab Ahmed, occupy the library building.
The occupiers held a “read-in”, and children read from their favourite books. It was a peaceful protest but the police were called in. The occupation ended at midnight with dozens of people waiting outside to greet them and with plans for a demonstration the following day.
The next morning more than 300 people marched down Stockport Road to protest against the £80 million cuts planned by Manchester City Council in response to the Coalition government slashing its funding.
They marched to the library and held a “die-in”, lying down in the road to mark the “death” of public services. Councillor Ahmed also attended and said:
“This is my community and this is my ward. People feel very strongly about the library closure. This demonstration is very peaceful and very public spirited.”
Vicky Rosin, deputy chief executive for Manchester council, said:
“There is a consultation going on about the library proposals as part of the democratic process — and that is how people who want to have their say about the proposals can get their voices heard.”
Unfortunately, the consultation leaflets and information about consultation meetings are not reaching local residents, though the local campaign is doing its best to get this information out there.
The Council’s Labour leadership argue that they have no choice but to reduce Manchester’s services and that setting an illegal budget would lead to even worse cuts imposed by Eric Pickles.
This was answered by one of the campaigners, Charlotte Smith, who said:
“If one city — and Liverpool’s in the same situation, Sheffield’s in the same situation — actually stood up to the cuts you could bring down the government.
“This is a weak, coalition government. The city stood up against Thatcher in the 1980s, and that was against a strong government.”
She called on other parts of Manchester to take action against the removal of their local services.
“Join us”, she said. “If everyone in Manchester does this, united we can stop the cuts.”