As welcome proof that not all British politicians are scum bent on gutting the nation’s library system, Chris Bryant, Labour Member of Parliament for Rhondda in Wales, Deputy Leader of the House of Commons in the last Labour government, writer, and former Head of European Affairs at the BBC, has taken time in his “A Westminster Life” column in the UK’s Independent newspaper to speak about the enforced closure of libraries. And he doesn’t mince words about the implications. “These local cuts are dismantling the last vestiges of civil society,” he declares.

“This has been the most dispiriting week in my 12 years as an MP,” he continues. “Nothing can quite compare with what is coming. Put simply, the Council has to find £56 million [$90.5 million] of cuts over the next four years, roughly £20 million [$32.3 million] this year. So the first list of closures is out. In my little patch of the Valleys five libraries will close.”

Unfortunately, as he adds, “there is absolutely nothing I can do about it …  the truth is that if Labour wins the next election we are not going to have spare cash to hand out.”

That’s a welcome admission from a politician, given the current blame game over the devastating cuts in financial provision for local services, especially libraries. The austerity program put in place by the current Conservative-Liberal Democratic government was needed to redress the massive deficit built up under the previous Labour administration. That said, Britain’s major political parties have been swapping accusations and trying to score points off the back of the devastation – ambulance-chasing politics at its most contemptible.

In a sidelight on this, Bryant concludes that: “Why it makes me so angry is that some of these services were originally built by the voluntary subscriptions of miners. In some leafy stretch of suburbia perhaps modern charity could fill the gap. But with so many people locally on short hours, low wages and diminished benefits, that’s a pipedream. So it feels as if the last vestiges of civil society are being dismantled and a bonfire of local services is being lit on the altar of austerity.”

The sad irony is that many of these services were originally built by exactly the means that the current government is advocating – directly or covertly – to mitigate the consequences of the funding drought. The inheritance of communal solidarity and civic spirit that was entrusted to local and central government for safe keeping is now being thrown away. Tragic doesn’t begin to describe it.


The TeleRead community values your civil and thoughtful comments. We use a cache, so expect a delay. Problems? E-mail