There’s little doubt that Stratford library is always busy – it’s often difficult to find a seat amongst the students who use it regularly and its children’s area is popular with local parents. However, most may not know that the library is due to close for six months from 1 October for what Newham council calls “refurbishment” – and what in practice means the incorporation of the Local Service Centre, currently across the road near the Fox pub, are part of the Mayor's plan for "Integrated Front Offices". With no notice and no public consultation, this will involve a drastic reduction in the children's library area.
The few Stratford library users who have heard about this proposal are understandably furious and I am indebted to Claire Perez for letting me know about a campaign to “end the clandestine cutting of community services upon which our children depend”. A campaign website has been set up and a petition launched. In a letter to Mayor Sir Robin Wales, Ms Perez says:
Sadly this kind of secrecy is commonplace in Newham. As those of us with a long memory also know well, efforts to persuade Sir Robin to change his mind are notoriously difficult, especially when squeezing other council services into a smaller, more overcrowded Stratford Library enables him to continue to claim that no library in Newham will actually close. The campaign by parents therefore needs all the support it can get from local people. You can find out about how to do so here.
According to my conversation with senior library management, the Borough’s communications team had not authorised them to inform library users of these impending changes. This is unacceptable and makes parents and children feel that they are victim to cynical machine politics. Parents and children of Newham will not be able to forgive politicians who stand back and allow a whole generation of young people to be betrayed in this way.