Press release from Hampshire Unison Retired Members Section: The barbarians are at the library doors

After ten years the onslaught to diminish our public services in Hampshire continues. Currently we are invited to take part in a consultation on the County’s library services, ultimately the aim of which appears to gain support for the closure of libraries, which will lead to inevitable redundancies.

For many pensioners libraries represent a point of social contact, combating loneliness and providing intellectual stimulation or simply a reason to get out of their houses.

For all of us, and particularly children, libraries are a place where they can read and learn to love books, both for the access they give to our world and its peoples, real or imaginary. All of which is useful in developing literacy and social skills and, equally important, a source of fun and enjoyment. Modern life styles dictate that care of children is increasingly delegated to grandparents, a combination often seen in libraries. Having a local library, easily reachable on foot, is therefore essential, and it is not good enough to have a library further away, perhaps involving a cost in getting to another branch.

Previous cutbacks have been disastrous, despite which our county councillors appear content to be the lap dogs of central government by making ongoing cuts to services with no end in sight. Central government in turn lacks the courage to implement the policies necessary to end austerity. As a result we currently have a judicial service not fit for purpose (Police, Probation, Prison Service) and a health service that is close to being overwhelmed. In areas such as social care local authority responsibilities are not being met. You know there are many other examples.

The time has come for all of us to state clearly to central government ‘Stop, no more, you are destroying our society’. In these uncertain times halt these ongoing budget restrictions and properly fund public services. Are our elected representatives, blind to the fact that the very sinews of our society are being stretched beyond their capacity to cope?

What of pensioners, who, in many cases, do so much to support their extended families? Sadly, for many of them, the future holds dark confusion, pain and limited mobility, supported by diminishing public services. They might well ask, and indeed do of their elected representatives, ‘Why do you continue to fail us?’

Chris O’Neill

Chair, Hampshire Unison Retired Members Section