Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Campaign for the Book

December newsletter

A hard rain’s gonna fall?

This is the grim assessment of the Local Government Association on the situation for public services after the credit crunch:

The economic slowdown has left town halls having to find more than a billion pounds of savings over the next three years to safeguard vital local services and keep council tax down, town hall leaders will say today.

The Local Government Association, which represents over 400 councils in England & Wales, is warning that the grim economic climate and rising inflation is forcing councils to come up with new ways to make money go further and maintain normal services.

New analysis shows that spiralling inflation has reduced the real terms value of money that councils receive in grant from the Government and through council tax. In real terms, the funding awarded to councils in last year’s Comprehensive Spending Review is now worth almost £500m a year less than the Government intended.

Already, there are reports of cuts around the UK. The Highlands and Aberdeen have faced cost cutting to their Schools Library Service and Wirral has announced ‘reconfiguration’ of its library service. The Campaign for the Book was launched in part to remind councils of their responsibilities and to support campaigns against cuts to library services. Please contact the Campaign with your stories. We will do our best to provide speakers for meetings.

Campaign summer conference
I can announce the details of the Campaign for the Book summer conference.
Campaign for the Book conference
Saturday, 27th June
King Edward’s School, Birmingham B15 2UA.

My thanks to school librarian Jean Allen who has secured the venue for us at a nominal rate.

I am aware that the Conference is now scheduled only a week after the School Library Association’s weekend event on June 20th and 21st. I am afraid there was no other date at which I could get a venue at reasonable cost. Some establishments were asking for between £2,000 and £7,000! I would urge anyone going to the SLA event to come along to Birmingham the week after too. Bodies like the SLA and the Campaign for the Book share a very similar vision. Consider it a busy two weeks to take a stand on behalf of libraries and reading for pleasure. The two events will complement each other.

One of the centrepieces of the conference will be a Question Time session on the future of libraries and reading. The following have already accepted an invitiation to speak: Roy Clare, MLA executive, Lyn Brown MP, Labour, all Party Parliamentary Group on Libraries, Ed Vaizey MP, Conservative speaker on Culture. I am awaiting final confirmation from the Liberal Democrats and from leading authors who will join the debate.

I will announce the remaining list of speakers once they have all confirmed. I would urge everyone in the Society of Authors, Cilip, YLG, SLA, the National Literacy Association, the National Association for Primary Education, the public service trade unions and publishers and the many individuals who have supported the Campaign to circulate the details of the Conference as widely as possible. I believe it can become a focus for debate about the future of libraries and books, supporting all the other groups and individuals who share our love of reading.


These are the next steps:
1) Supporters circulate this newsletter as widely as possible.
2) Organizers issue the first leaflet advertising the Conference just after Christmas. Illustrator Steve Weatherill has kindly agreed to provide a cartoon for the first leaflet. Each month I will be asking an illustrator to design a different leaflet to sustain the momentum.
3) Final confirmation of speakers.
4) Collection of delegate fees. This will be set at the lowest level possible and include coffee, tea and a lunch. At the moment it looks likely that the cost will be very low indeed. Most speakers have already indicated that they will attend for the nominal cost of travel only and accommodation if at long distance. My thanks to them for that.

For further information, please contact:

Alan Gibbons: aagibbons@blueyonder.co.uk

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