AN OPEN LETTER SENT TODAY FROM MIDLANDS TUC CREATIVE AND LEISURE INDUSTRIES COMMITTEE (CLIC) TO MARTIN REEVES CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF COVENTRY CITY COUNCIL.

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“I received the fundamentals of my education in school, but that was not enough. My real education, the superstructure, the details, the true architecture, I got out of the public library. For an impoverished child whose family could not afford to buy books, the library was the open door to wonder and achievement, and I can never be sufficiently grateful that I had the wit to charge through that door and make the most of it. Now, when I read constantly about the way in which library funds are being cut and cut, I can only think that the door is closing and that society has found one more way to destroy itself.”
                                                                                    Isaac Asimov    
Dear Mr Reeves 
The Midlands TUC Creative & Leisure Industries Committee (CLIC) has been disturbed to hear of the proposed cuts to the libraries and museums of Coventry. The Midlands CLIC is made up of unions from across the cultural sector including BECTU, Equity, MU, NUJ, PCS, Unison, NUT, UCU and WGGB. Our purpose is to campaign in support of arts and leisure provision across the region and for an improvement in the terms and conditions of workers in the sector. 
” A library is not a luxury but one of the necessities of life.”

                                                                       Henry Ward Beecher. 
Industrialists like Sir Alfred Herbert in Coventry, who built the economic prosperity of the Midlands, understood the importance of culture, particularly libraries, galleries and museums, to the quality of life in the region and also to the economy and the quality of political discourse. Educated and informed democratic citizens are essential to the successful functioning of our democracy, just as an educated workforce is crucial to the regions economic success. 
Formal education in schools, colleges and universities, is directed, controlled and measured. Libraries, galleries and museums complement formal education by allowing individuals (especially those of limited means) to stimulate their brains and their imaginations according to their own preferences, in other words, to be intellectually free. 
In a prosperous, innovative and dynamic city, as presumably Coventry aspires to be, publicly funded libraries, museums and galleries are not an ‘optional extra’ to be discarded as soon as money gets tight, they are at the defining heart of our shared civic spaces, and without them what does the civic space of Coventry entail? Only the emptying of bins and the cleaning of the streets? 
Of course Coventry City Council needs to empty the bins and clean the streets, but it also has to provide the shared civic spaces that give cultural identity to the City by enhancing education and public discourse, and attracting individuals and families to want to live and work in the city, thus attracting businesses and inward investment. The statutory provision of essential services must not be used as a reason to cut cultural civic spaces; it is only our shared cultural experiences that give the pragmatic day-to-day realities of life meaning.
“The only thing that you absolutely have to know… is the location of the library.”

                                                                                   Albert Einstein 
The shrinking of the budgets and services of the cities libraries, galleries and museums, also disproportionately impact on the poor and disadvantaged. People like Sir Alfred Herbert understood the privilege inherent in the access to learning and culture that their wealth gave them; they sought to spread those benefits throughout society, so that both rich and poor could have access to that advantage. 
It is widely recognised that rapidly escalating inequality in the UK is having terribly destructive and divisive effects on our society as a whole, not just on the poor. (See: The Spirit Level: Why more equal societies almost always do better. by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett.) The inevitable result of economic inequality is cultural and educational inequality. Restricting access to books, art and culture only to those who can ‘afford’ them, exponentially exacerbates inequality for only modest savings. This ultimately costs untold millions because of the negative effect cultural poverty has on health, crime and social cohesion. 
Coventry is currently preparing a bid to be City Of Culture 2021; simultaneously Coventry City Council is seeking to close or outsource libraries, cutting staff and budgets at the Herbert Gallery & Museum and decimating Cultural Services across the city. The idea of Coventry as a ‘City Of Culture’ is an important one but not just for 2021. 
We urge Coventry City Council to end the diminishing of public cultural facilities and services in the city. By doing so you would make a public statement about the type of city you are aspiring to build. We would be happy to meet with you to discuss how the Midlands TUC could help Coventry City Council fulfil its cultural duty to the citizens of the city and look forward to hearing from you in due course. 
Signed by

Lee Barron, Regional Secretary Midlands TUC

Chris Jury, Chair, Midlands TUC Creative & Leisure Industries Committee

Meeting for Coventry City Unison Members – Connecting Communities

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UntitledConnecting Communities Phase Two

Cuts &/or Privatisation plans for:

  • Nurseries
  • Libraries
  • Youth Service
  • Childrens’ Centres

Come and tell the Branch Your Views.

Help UNISON oppose these threats to Jobs and Services.

Any query please contact UNISON Coventry City Branch either by phone or e-mail.

02476 550829      office@unisoncoventry.co.uk

PRESS RELEASE – UNISON calls on Labour Councillors to reconsider Connecting Communities cuts

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UNISON, the City Councils largest trade union is calling upon Councillors to reject the Connecting Communities proposal before them on 23rd February that will see £5,000,000 of savings over two phases.

Consultation responses received by the authority have overwhelmingly rejected the proposal that would see the Council reduce or cease service provision. The Cabinet are being asked to commit to a shot in the dark proposal (Phase 2) that could compromise all elements of the Councils people directorate at a time when the general perception of citizens is that “the Council should continue to provide and do”. *1

Dawn Palmer-Ward, Corporate Representative for UNISON said

“Phase 1 will have a detrimental effect upon many service users and the staff that we represent in order to save just over £1million.
Councillors will be committing today to a further £3.5 million without a clear explanation of which services will be effected and how.

We have written to each Councillor ( *2) to ask them to fight with UNISON to protect the principle of publicly provided services, delivered locally by the City Council, through a broad coalition of local authorities challenging government austerity cuts”

*1 Connecting Communities – Phase 1 Outcome of Consultation 23 February 2016 *2 UNISON letter to councillors (below)
ENDS
Dawn Palmer-Ward

UNISON Coventry City Branch Tel: 024 76521123

Mob: 07535526062

Dawn.palmer-ward@unisoncoventry.co.uk

 

22 February 2016

RE: Budget Setting and Connecting Communities

Dear Councillor

You may have read recently that UNISON Coventry City branch is advocating a no-cuts legal budget. We are asking that you as a member of Labour Group consider this by using reserves to fund services.

We welcome the fact that as a Labour Group you have looked at technical savings and prudential borrowing to help to secure some services. As a trade union we have advocated this position regarding technical savings for some time and we believe that it offers an opportunity to address some of the Central Government’s attacks on Local Government funding in the short term. However, we realise that it does not solve the issue of the increasingly hostile attacks on our services from Central Government.

As a trade union we are keen to work with Labour councillors in campaigning for a better and fairer funding settlement for us in Coventry and would welcome closer working to try and save directly delivered services to the citizens of Coventry. We believe in quality public services delivered in house to local residents not outsourced with poor provision.

We would also request that you consider carefully the Connecting Communities proposal. UNISON is concerned about the lack of clarity within the proposals and the idea that some of our services can somehow be delivered to the same standard by volunteers. Or that the services simply will not be delivered at all. There is a budget line attached to that of some £3.5m which you are being asked to approve without a clear explanation of what services will be cut and how the citizens of Coventry will be affected.

UNISON believes that as the decision makers you should be provided with full clarity about the proposal and the options open to you to take. We would ask that you do not vote this through with a heavy heart and no understanding of the ramifications of the proposal but rather you seek further clarity and vote in the full knowledge of the cuts that it will inevitably mean.

There has been approximately 500 responses to the Connecting Communities proposal yet we are aware that you have been provided with a summary of themes which still state that the public would prefer that their services are delivered locally by the City Council. We would ask that you consider this response when deciding how to vote tomorrow.

Additionally you may not be aware that the council still has many of the agreed cuts to make with headlines such as workforce strategy, with the implied cuts to terms and conditions, not even broached yet alone having started meaningful negotiations on the issue.

We would also urge you to consider joining with other local Labour Authorities in calling for a co- ordinated response to the cuts with a view to seeking ways to publicise the damage Conservative policies have done and will continue to do in respect of funding cuts and also to develop a coherent strategy to resist them. We acknowledge that one Local Authority cannot change the direction of the cuts but that a broader coalition of local authorities would make a stronger case than one alone.

We welcome the Labour Party’s anti-austerity stance and believe that now is the time for change and for making that case. Please consider joining with us to call for a fairer settlement for those most in need.

Yours sincerely

Sarah Feeney

 

UNISON PRESS RELEASE_ Connecting Communities_22.02.16