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Campaign to save Bromley’s libraries from privatisation ramps up with week-long strike by library staff

PUBLISHED: 12:44 20 March 2017 | UPDATED: 12:44 20 March 2017

Cllr Peter Morgan

Cllr Peter Morgan

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Unite’s library staff members - 60 people - will be walking out at the beginning of April

The Bromley public has been asked by union Unite ‘to rise up and make their voice heard’, in a bid to stop the borough’s 14 libraries being privately operated on behalf of 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 - who they claim in Greenwich Leisure Limited (Bromley Council refuse to confirm this) - with its bid in place.

In a further effort to end the bidding process, Unite’s library members, who number about 60, will be striking for a week from 00.01 on April 1 until 23.59 on April 8.

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.”

But Peter Morgan, Bromley executive councillor for renewal and recreation, has said the council’s plan for a private operator are in Bromley resident’s best interests.

He said: “There is a fundamental difference of opinion here, with the council firmly committed to getting best value for council taxpayers in the way that services are delivered and I am sure residents will understand this.

“Ultimately, we are looking at all of the services we provide here and in that sense, libraries are no different. We cannot have public negotiations with potential contractors as everyone will understand.

“Getting best value means we can better provide and protect services that residents need and value, with decisions finally taken at the end of the process. Ironically, this proposal is actually based on providing the same library service that exists currently.

“The vast majority of libraries have stayed open on other occasions when the union has taken similar unnecessary industrial action. I am mindful of our staff at this time and I would like to pay tribute to our library staff for their professional dedication to serving residents.”

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