Union outrage over plans for community groups to run South Tyneside libraries

UNISON are staging a protest against library changes. 
Front from left secretary Jan Green and regional officer Gemma Taylor
UNISON are staging a protest against library changes. Front from left secretary Jan Green and regional officer Gemma Taylor

Union members are preparing to protest at South Tyneside Council’s plans to change library services in the borough.

UNISON and the South Tyneside Public Service Alliance have hit out against the council’s Library Reconfiguration Plan which would see community groups take over the running of some libraries.

The libraries involved are Whitburn, East Boldon and the Boldon Lane and Primrose libraries in South Shields.

Future services will be centred on The Word, in South Shields Market Place, Hebburn Central, Jarrow Hub and the Cleadon Park centre - which will serve as “multi-service hubs”.

The council says such changes are a result of ‘unprecedented financial pressures’ and will consult on the plans.

UNISON have launched a campaign to keep branch libraries open with paid staff and plan to protest on the steps of South Shields Town Hall at 3.15pm on Wednesday.

Gemma Taylor, South Tyneside PSA co-ordinator, said: “We fully understand the unprecedented financial pressures our local authority is under and has been under since 2010 by central government.

“Our councillors have got really hard decisions to make as the council struggle to balance the budget, but there are also choices.

“Libraries provide value for money, a range of services to a wide selection of people in communities, reach all age groups and enable them to deliver on the council aims, objectives and vision for the future.

“Our branch libraries are the last free open, inclusive, spaces left in communities

“They are highly valued by South Tyneside residents.”

Jan Green, UNISON branch secretary, called it a ‘stressful and worrying time’ for members and library users.

She said: “UNISON will be in the forefront of this campaign to fight to protect our members and communities future.

“UNISON is aware once we lose these vital community assets they will be gone forever.”