Leading authors join thousands in protest march against cuts to libraries, museums and galleries

'Libraries are vital to our communities, they are vital for education and empowering people' 

Alexandra Sims
Saturday 05 November 2016 20:36
The ordinance mandates fines and even jail time
The ordinance mandates fines and even jail time

Leading authors have joined activists marching in protest against wide-ranging cuts to cultural services including, libraries, museums and galleries.

Children's authors Alan Gibbons and Michael Rosen and the children’s laureate Chris Riddell were among thousands of people who gathered outside the British Library before marching on to Trafalgar Square in central London on Saturday.

More than 340 libraries have been closed since 2010, with the loss of almost a quarter of staff in what several unions, including Unite, Unison and the Public and Commercial Services have called a “national crisis”.

Around 2,500 people joined the protest, according to Unite's head of media and campaigns Alex Flynn.

“It's been very good natured but people have been clear in the message that libraries are vital to our communities, they are vital for education and empowering people and that libraries should not be cut,” he said.

"I think it's exceeded expectations - the level of support and the reception we have got as we've marched from the British Library. We would hope that the Government take note."

Ahead of the demonstration, Unite officer Fiona Farmer said: "Tory Government cuts to local government funding have wrought havoc to our public libraries with hundreds closing.

"What we are seeing community by community is an act of cultural and educational vandalism.

"Libraries are the gateway to knowledge, learning and enjoyment for all ages of people from all walks of life.

"Yet more and more communities are seeing their library disappear or service diminish because of librarian cuts or failed privatisation."

The unions warned that as well as job and pay cuts, many museums and galleries are being privatised as organisations took short-term measures to cut costs.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "Given the clear benefits arts and culture bring to our society and our economy, cuts to libraries, museums and galleries represent everything wrong with the Tories' approach to public spending.

"While institutions are closing, privatising services or charging for access, the staff who guard our nation's cultural treasures are languishing on low pay and insecure contracts."

A spokesperson for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said: "Libraries are important to communities, not only as places to borrow books but as spaces where people can access a wide variety of information and services.

"That's why local authorities will have almost £200 billion to spend on local services, including libraries, over the lifetime of this parliament. Local authorities have a statutory duty to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service and we have powers to ensure they comply."

Additional reporting by Press Association

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