On 1 October Wirral Council announced that all 11 of the libraries that were to be closed would now stay open. This is an important victory for the Wirral Against the Cuts campaign and shows that it is possible to win local anti-cuts campaigns.
The victory was down to those of us who organised mass meetings, leafleted estates, collected petitions, demanded an inquiry, told the councillors and MPs that we wouldn't vote for them if they made cuts, organised demonstrations and lobbies and refused to go away.
We were able to force a government inquiry and we co-ordinated the input into it.
The campaign helped set up “save the library committees” at eight of the libraries, and we co-ordinated submissions into the inquiry. Where the local campaigns were strong we knew their submissions would be okay, where they were weaker, especially in the working class estates, we helped people organise.
The Labour group and the Liberals are very unhappy. They made the announcement before the findings of the government inquiry were made public. It now looks likely that the inquiry will be halted and the report not published. They now want to avoid criticisms of their “strategic asset review” being made public.
But they are out for revenge and have published plans to privatise parks, allotments, the crematorium and golf courses. Hopefully this victory will mean people will be confident to take part in the next campaign.
We knew Wirral was going to be a model for other local authorities who are “re-organising” their library provision. To that we have said: if you try try to make cuts and privatise local services, expect a battle.
The Tories are trying to take credit for the victory when they said campaigning wouldn’t work and the inquiry was a waste of time. They have also voted for all the other council cuts.
So Wirral Against the Cuts campaign will hopefully now be in a stronger position to fight both Labour and Tory cuts and begin to build a political alternative.