Levy occupation to Manchester: join us

Article published: Saturday, February 9th 2013

R.I.P. public services? A mass “die in” and march blocked Levenshulme’s roads today as local families fresh from the occupation of their threatened library refused to take the cuts lying down.

Levy Stockport road 9 Feb 2013

Protesters march down Stockport Road

Children lay down outside the neighbourhood’s threatened baths and library to symbolically mark the death of local services.

And up to 250 protestors marched down Stockport Road to protest the £80 million cuts planned by Manchester City Council in response to the Coalition government slashing its funding.

The closure was announced two years after a hard fought battle to keep Levenshulme swimming pool open. The council says it will replace the leisure centre and library – but not for two years.

Only the night before 50 people including local Labour councillor Aftab Ahmed had occupied their treasured local library to call attention to its impending closure.

Manchester City Council dismissed the sit-in as a “stunt”, but a section 68 notice of aggravated trespass was hastily issued and the police threatened to evict those inside.

But the Mums and Dads occupying the library held firm for seven hours, and ended the occupation with a collective walk out at one minute past midnight to cheers from onlookers and well-wishers.

“The strength of feeling in the community is so massive that we needed to do something”, said campaigner Charlotte Smith.

“What was brilliant about last night was the scale of it. It was 50 people who have not occupied before, it wasn’t a small group who have done it before.”

Inside the Levenshulme Library occupation

Inside the Levenshulme Library occupation the night before

She added that after two years of austerity people in Levenshulme “know what the cuts actually mean. It’s not an abstract idea anymore it’s a real reality.”

On the night of the occupation the council’s deputy chief executive Vicky Rosin told the press that protesters had the opportunity to voice their views through official channels.

“There is a consultation going on about the library proposals as part of the democratic process and this is how people who want to have their say about the proposals can get their voices heard”, she said.

“This stunt is not the way.”

Smith strongly disagreed. “The council are going to make a decision on the 8th of March [but the consultation] ends on the 17th of April”, she pointed out. “The consultation is a stunt.”

She argued that residents felt they had forced the council to take notice. “The mood within the campaign at the moment is actually very positive. I think people feel good because we’re actually doing something.

“And what was really good about last night is when we decided to come out collectively there was a big crowd of people waiting for us to come out with a big cheer. That was the best part.”

The council’s Labour leadership say they have no choice but to reduce Manchester’s services and argue setting an illegal budget would lead to even worse cuts imposed by Tory local government minister Eric Pickles.

Levy 9 feb - dont cut our pool

Outside Levenshulme Swimming Baths

Smith argued that things may not be so straightforward. “There is absolutely no guarantee that they would send an administrator in because it would cause a political storm”, she said.

“If one city – and Liverpool’s in the same situation, Sheffield’s in the same situation – actually stood up to the cuts you could bring down the government. This is a weak coalition government.

“The city stood up against Thatcher in the 1980s and that was against a strong government.”

And she called on other parts of Manchester to take action against the removal of their local services. “Join us”, she said. “If everyone in Manchester does this united we can stop the cuts.”

Richard Goulding

More: Council, Cuts, Manchester, News

Comments

  1. The council consultation is flawed because they have already decided to cut leisure services- and then they only ask residents afterwards- to comment about minor details (like ‘which librabry/pool?’ and ‘when?’).

    The council has a huge budget- what is all the rest being spent on? For example, is it the salaries, pensions, benefits, trips away of the high-ranking executives? How much goes on financing loans? How much money is spent on spin, public relations, ‘marketing’? How much is the council holding in savings/reserves? How much does it cost to run the Town Hall? Couldn’t you sell the Town Hall?

    Or why not simply modernise/economise the library service- save money on the staff, there do seem to be more of them than they need. And how do they choose which new books to buy?- I see strange choices in new music books for example- do you need to keep getting more books which do not get borrowed? And how much money is being lavished on rebuilding the central ref library, which has been out of use for years- has that eaten up all the library budget?

    Comment by dave taylor on February 10, 2013 at 12:07 am
  2. I really think they should be allowed to raise money through local taxes.perhaps charge a pound to those that benefit from post free purchases from tax dodgers. (amazon et al )
    people have voted Labour in here for 80 years,yet Tory cuts are imposed disproportionately on Labour towns and cities.
    The idea of a community library is just big society dressed up as peole powerwhen in fact it’s using voluntary workers to do what should be paid work
    Community /Public libraries need proper waged staffing irrespective of who employs them.

    use them for gigs/meetings keep them open 24/7 7-11,then the apparent overstaffing can become useful again .

    The money spent on central library is well overdue and this is where more money should be spent ,fixing roofs,updating and maintaining run down libraries and pools

    Comment by Nick Georgiou on February 10, 2013 at 3:42 pm
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