Local campaigners have expressed concern that Whitstable Library is one of 70 libraries due to be downgraded next year by Kent County Council.
Kent County Council is currently consulting on a major reorganisation of its 99 libraries across the county. Whitstable Library is due to see its opening hours cut by 16 hours a week (from 59 to 43 hours per week). Swalecliffe Library will only be open 23 hours a week (down from 40).
In light of this closure, prospective Canterbury City Candidates Chris Cornell, Val Kenny and George Caffrey are calling on the City Council to protect the library by expanding rather than contracting the services it offers. As a hub where a range of local council services and advice are available to the public, alongside the library, it would be used more and costs could be spread.
“We all know that how people use libraries is changing, but they represent an asset in our communities which could be used differently and as a means of making council services more accessible” said George. “Over the last week we have been talking to residents about the library” said Chris, “like me, many have expressed horror at the idea of it closing and concern that trips to read with their children may not being taken into account in the consultation that records utilisation purely on the number of books borrowed”.
Libraries being redeveloped as ‘public sector hubs’ (also commonly called Gateway’s across Kent) are are currently exempt from the reorganisation but so far Canterbury City Council remains one of the only local authorities in Kent not to have considered a hub to make your local services available on the high street. “Canterbury should be learning from neighbouring councils and introducing hubs like this into Whitstable” said magistrate Ms Kenny. “Last October, myself and my fellow candidates, heard from staff in Sheppey how bringing local council and voluntary services into the library had both boosted visitor numbers and made the council more accessible“.
Kent County Council are consulting on the changes until the 29th January and Labour are encouraging residents to have their say. If you agree with us that the Library could be better used please Complete the online questionnaire at https://bit.ly/2AzjBA5 or search ‘Kent Libraries Consultation Questionnaire”
This week there was a huge debate about whether Jeremy Corbyn muttered “stupid woman” or “stupid people” under his breath during the heated, final Prime Minister’s Questions of 2018. I have no intention of giving that debate any more airtime when the real issue is that your government does not care for people’s suffering, particularly women’s.
It is disgusting that you have sought to make political capital out of this issue. Yesterday you emailed your constituents, calling out the Labour leader as misogynistic and asking them to join the Conservative party instead. Weaponising feminism in this way is deeply bizarre given the current political landscape.
Last month Philip Alston, the UN’s rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, gave an extraordinary report on your government’s austerity policies. He concluded that they have inflicted “great misery” on the 14 million people living in poverty in the UK. He also damned the British welfare system as “so sexist it may as well have been compiled by a group of misogynists in a room.”
How has this government inflicted systematic misogyny on the women of this country? After nearly a decade of austerity it is clear that women are disproportionately shouldering the burden of these policies. This is born out by research carried out by the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the Women’s Budget Group and the Runnymede Trust demonstrating that women, particularly BAME women, are disproportionately affected by cuts to public services and other spending.
What does this burden look like Helen? It looks like this:
- Thousands of women being turned away from domestic violence refugesdue to local funding cuts and one in six refuges closing since 2010
- Women put at risk by Universal Credit because the insistence on a single payment per household makes it harder for them to leave an abusive or controlling partner
- Women who work in the public sector unable to feed and clothe their children as a result of in-work poverty. (Two thirds of public sector workers are women and so have been massively affected by public sector pay freezes since 2010
- WASPI women turning to food banks for the first time in their lives
- Single mothers made so desperate by Universal Credit that they are taking the government to court over it. Nine out of ten single parents are womenand these same women are also more likely to be penalised by your harsh benefit sanctions
- Exhausted women all around the country bearing the brunt of nearly a decade of cuts to our public services by increasing the amount of unpaid care work they perform in looking after elderly, disabled or young family members
- Women having to relive trauma in order to prove their third child is the result of a rape in order to claim child tax credits for that child under the abhorrent “rape clause” (this is a policy that truly belongs in Gilead, and nowhere else)
- Women having to face their violent abusers in court as they are left without legal representation following 40% cuts to legal aid
- Women turning to or remaining in prostitution because they are worse off under Universal Credit
To seek to create political capital over the events of this week when your government has enacted policies that amount to nearly a decade of systematic misogyny is an act of gross hypocrisy. If you actually care about seeing an end to misogyny then please, clean your own house first, women’s lives depend on it.