I emailed Sir Richard Leese today:
Dear Sir Richard,
I’m writing to you, as I’m sure dozens of others presently are, to express my own personal opposition to the projected closure of the swimming pools and the library in Levenshulme.
I understand there are plans for a new leisure facility – containing both a new swimming pool and a new library (or ‘book collection’). If the level of outrage with which these proposals have been met confuses you please allow me to elucidate: few people believe the Council. As you know, the swimming pools have been saved from threat of closure a number of times, always with the promise to reinvest in the place, something which the Council, obviously, has never got round to. Maybe there really will be a new leisure facility in a couple of years, but when the same Council proposes once again to close our current swimming pool and library, this time with the promise of building a brand new community complex – the cost and timing of which appear to have been persistently marked by vagueness and obfuscation– I hope you can see that it seems, quite literally, incredible.
I’m sensitive to the need to encourage the growth of new business and tourism in Manchester and am realistic that this will always require investment in the city centre. But, to put it bluntly, people have to live here too. The primary duty of a Council is to serve the local community, and Levenshulme is an area which is clearly already disadvantaged and lacking public services. The decision to penalise the people who live here whilst largely sparing various investment programmes in central Manchester demands, at the very least, a more detailed explanation.
The library, as you’re aware, has been a part of Levenshulme since the early 1900’s. It’s survived times of similar economic hardship, two world wars and the Kindle. Why must the community – its children, its senior citizens, its hard-working families – now be expected to simply live without its library in the vague hope of there one day being some kind of ‘community book collection’? Why precisely now? To say the Council needs to be rid of the place because it’s not profitable enough is to miss entirely the point (even the dictionary definition) of a library
If I had not had access to a library when I was younger it’s unlikely I’d be writing to you now. I had the benefit of a good upbringing – I learned to read in school. But I came to better know the world through reading, something which would have been severely impeded had it not been for my local library. I’d like to think that there’s a measure of politeness and eloquence to the manner in which I’ve written to you today, and I hope you see that as testament to the importance – the necessity – of a local library. If a Council won’t provide this basic amenity it’s failed in its duty to its citizens.
I believe, sincerely and wholeheartedly, that your job is an exceptionally difficult one; with these proposals, I'm sure you are doing what has been assessed to be for the best. I don’t for one second suspect the decision to take Levenshulme Library away from the community is one which was taken likely; nor do I think the decision to close Levenshulme Swimming Pool – a mere six months after the Olympics instilled in local young people an unprecedented sense of optimism and interest for sport and their physical wellbeing – is one of which you’re especially proud. I can’t imagine you came into politics to take away from those with so little and stifle the hopes of young people but, for some, this is exactly what your proposals spell out.
You have done great things for Manchester in the past; I urge you not to forget that your ward extends far beyond the boundaries of the city centre and to, please, reconsider and keep Levenshulme’s Swimming Pool and Library open.
Thank you for your time,