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Local services :: Libraries
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24 September 2012
In recent weeks, Tameside's Labour controlled council has announced proposals to close and severely cut the budgets of libraries in the authority.
In response, many outraged residents have begun to organise themselves into groups to fight the council's attacks.
There has been a number of protests outside Labour MP Andrew Gwynne's surgery and endless letters to councillors, all seemingly falling on deaf ears.
Councillor Margaret Downs has acted in a particularly contemptuous manner exclaiming at one campaigner, regarding the upcoming closure of Haughton Green library: "It's gone, get used to it!".
On 19 September, the three ward councillors for Denton South attended a 'Save Haughton Green Library' meeting.
Their insistence on there being no money to sustain the libraries was met with calls to use the £9.6 million of reserve funds being stashed away by the council over the next three years.
Responding to the meeting's anger, councillor Claire Francis suggested foolishly that local residents could volunteer to run the library.
She was left dumbfounded by the uproar, with one former librarian likening it to Cameron's 'Big Society' where highly trained, paid professionals can lose their jobs for poorly trained volunteers to take their place.
The anger against the Labour Party in the meeting was unmistakable. Many are concerned that service cuts will worsen the prospects for Tameside's young people.
Indeed, approximately one in four children in the borough lives in poverty. With the recent closure of a number of community high schools, £1 million being cut from Connexions career services and cuts to school clothing grants, the situation is getting worse.
The meeting decided to broaden the campaign, work closely with other library groups and appeal to local trade unions for support to challenge the council and build a mass campaign against the cuts.
The deaths of the two women police officers in Tameside, Greater Manchester earlier this week has saddened and shocked many people - none more so than people on the estate of Hattersley where it happened.
But it seems that some people only see political opportunity in this sad incident. Norman Tebbit - famous for bashing workers in the 1980s - immediately jumped on the bandwagon, calling for the police to be armed.
Closer to home, Tameside council used it as an excuse to avoid having to justify themselves publicly to people who had turned up to protest against library closures in the area, with little or no discussion.
Further still the Manchester Evening News caused outrage by publishing an article - "Police shootings: Conspiracy of silence that let fugitive Dale Cregan evade capture" - implying that his whereabouts were widely known amongst the community.
Members of the community contacted Manchester Evening News (M.E.N.) to arrange a meeting on the estate where people could express their views on the incident, and yet the meeting was cancelled before it began with the M.E.N. stating that no-one had bothered to turn up!
Only hours after it had become clear to the residents of the estate what had happened, a Facebook event for a vigil, to show the community's respects, gathered hundreds of attendees.
The police, however, would not support the event at the time it was set and told everyone to hold off until next week, the reasons for which became clear as both the police and the media stuck the boot in.
I watched the BBC's Newsnight coverage with a growing sense of unease as the estate was labelled a safe-haven where criminals are revered and everyone feels unsafe.
Is it a coincidence that the vigil was postponed by the police when the chief constable had arranged to visit the site (along with the inevitable media circus) on the same day? Why were community representatives not invited so that they could respond? The comments by the Chief Constable on Newsnight (20.9.12) served only to drag the estate's reputation down by using emotive language, linking Hattersley with gun crime and gangs.
Having lived on the estate for a while I know nothing is further from the truth. I have always felt relatively safe here and found people friendly.
The working class people of Hattersley are fuming about the way we are being portrayed in the media, which is unfortunately part of the general trend to pour scorn and derision upon the working class.
Only a socialist transformation of society can free journalism from the yoke of capitalism and allow unbiased and objective news accessible to all.
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 24 September 2012 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.
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Article dated 24 September 2012
The Socialist, weekly newspaper of the Socialist Party
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