Books, Film & TV Monday, June 13th Words by: Lauren Rogers, pictures by: Trish Marsh/Words Fails Me

Video takes a satirical look at Herefordshire library cuts

Books, Film & TV Monday, June 13th

Video takes a satirical look at Herefordshire library cuts

Despite the public grumbling, social media campaigns and George Osborne’s word that the government will ‘keep investing in arts and culture’, almost 350 UK libraries have closed over the past six years.

More than 8,000 library jobs have disappeared and 15,500 volunteers have been recruited.

Hereford Library & Museum has been shut for nine months because of an asbestos scare and is unlikely to open again until January 2017.

Even more dire is Herefordshire Council’s plans to ‘withdraw’ the libraries in Leominster, Ross, and Belmont and cut the Bromyard, Kington and Ledbury libraries down to “self-service”. 

It's not unique to Herefordshire - Lancashire plans to cut its number of libraries from 75 to 34, more than 30 libraries in Somerset are being moved or merged, in Croydon, South London, nine of its 13 libraries are being reviewed, and in Bradford, West Yorkshire, 19 libraries will either shut or be run by volunteers.

Frustrated by the authority attitude to libraries - a public service famously described as "not a luxury but one of the necessities of life" -  art student Trish Marsh, who lives in Leominster, has produced a short film.

It's not big budget but it's an important (and sardonic) 9-minute look at where library cuts might lead.

We caught up with Hereford College of Arts student Trish about why she made the video and why the fight to save libraries is far from over.

What made you want to research the artistic / public response to council cuts, specifically the libraries?

I worked in local government for 20 years so I'm motivated by my considerable respect for the services that councils offer and the challenges they face as result of austerity.

My family have always been involved in the arts and I've seen first hand what a lot they offer our local communities, so this is also close to my heart.

I'm especially keen that people understand what is planned in time to repond.

The figures are all hidden away but the cuts to local services are all set out for the next 5 years! [Medium Term Financial Strategy]

Local authority staff are often not in a position to speak out about what is happening themselves, so they need allies outside the council in order to show what is happening and struggle together to find creative ways forward.

In Cardiff, an organised march resulted a city council u-turn on arts cuts. Do you think public protest and community outcry can sway the Powers That Be, and convince the councillors, governments, officers not to cut funding?

The problem is that central government grants are dropping year on year and local councils have a duty to set a balanced budget. 

There was a 37% estimated real-terms reduction in government funding to local authorities 2010-11 to 2015-16 (National Audit Office figures)

At the start of the 2010 Parliament, almost 80% of council expenditure was financed by central government grant; by next year Revenue Support Grant will account for only 16% of spending power; by 2019 to 2020 only 5%. (Sec of State DCLG)

This is a massive change that will affect poorer areas like Herefordshire disproportionately as the county's ability to raise funding itself through council tax and business rates is low.
So there is not much room at a local level - though perhaps some spend could be reprioritised.

For instance Herefordshire apparently spends over a 1m a year on litter collecting. I'm sure if we could all drop less we could use that money better!

But getting an active and informed public debate going about what people value and how our public funds can be best spent before it is all too late for many cherished services can only be positive.


During your research, have you found people to be passionate or apathetic about saving the local libraries?

People are very passionate about libraries and there are active support groups across the county.

But the proposed cuts to the council libraries budget definitely means several will be lost unless the council changes its plans.

And that is not simple, as it would mean cutting something else instead.

How common is what’s happening in Herefordshire? I was talking to people at the Library of Birmingham last week and people there painted a similar picture, from Brighton and Hove to Stourbridge.

All too common.

There are several excellent national websites, including Voices for the Library - but the information on them is deeply depressing.

What next for you, and the video?

The video is up on a couple of national library sites and I hope it will be shared across social media too.

I'd also like to respond to the museum cuts planned for Herefordshire - they are much faster and deeper than the library cuts because the museum is not a statutory service. But it is the repository of much of the county's history.

The budget for 2016/17 is £230K, dropping to £140k in 2017/18 and £67k in 2018/19 (Cabinet report published March 10, 2016).

There is a Library and Museum Support Fund of £60k.

The only trouble is that is meant to look for a model to make these services self sustaining with minimal council funding, and I am highly unsure that's possible."


Herefordshire Council has distanced itself from definitive library closures, telling the Hereford Times last year that “the proposals around libraries and customer service centres etc are just that, proposals”.

In 2015, the Save Herefordshire's Libraries campaign handed a petition of 9,504 signatures to the council - urging them not to cut the library and museum budget, not to reduce opening hours or replace staff with volunteers.

"Volunteers can assist, but not run libraries or museums," said campaigner John Perkins at the time.

"It requires 18 volunteers to keep Peterchurch Library open for 10 hours per week. 

Further denigration of services, for instance the cancellation of inter-library lending, have since been introduced without consultation, continuing the secrecy operated by the council cabinet. That's illegal under the 1964 act."

With everything on hold because of Broad Street - a site that would, had asbestos not cropped up, been held up as the most-used service - there’s no clear timescale for when a decision will come for Herefordshire library services, be it death knell or a lifeline.

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There is a temporary library at Hereford Town Hall. Opening hours here.

Extra reading: The Library Campaign and Voices for the Library

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