Rhydyfelin library re-opens!

Victory in the struggle against cuts and austerity

Rhydyfelin library saved.jpg

Rhydyfelin library has re-opened after being closed by Rhondda Cynon Taff council for just 16 days. Over 100 people from the Rhydyfelin community were jubilant as the library opened at 10.00 am and they flooded into the building to reclaim their library. "Sometimes you don't appreciate something until you lose it".

There was tea, tears and laughter as the people celebrated a famous victory against one of the most aggressively-cutting councils in Wales. The tears were tears of happiness of campaigners who thrown all their energies into saving the library including chaining themselves to the bookshelves in an occupation on May 31st when the library closed. Tears of frustration are no doubt being spilt by the RCT Labour councillors who have been thwarted in their attempt to close the library.

But the Rhydyfelin campaigners are vigilant. They know the council might come back again to close Rhydyfelin library. And they are ready to join with other communities in case RCT council come to close another library to compensate for the failure to close Rhydyfelin. "We will go to help other areas re-open their library" declared Meurig Parri, one of the leading campaigners.

The combined pressure of a vibrant campaign by the community with the threat of a judicial review proved too much for the council. The promise by campaigners to stand in the next council elections against the Labour councillors undoubtedly also played a part in forcing the climb-down.

This is a library that is truly loved, a bright sunny building used by every section of the community from toddlers to pensioners, from school students doing their homework to yoga classes. From the moment the library was threatened all of these people rallied round to save it. They stood in large numbers in the pouring rain collecting signatures in the high street. They drove around the streets with a megaphone and car-top sandwich board. They held meetings, they talked to the press - they even made a film. Their enthusiastic, determined campaign has taken their battle all the way to victory.

RCT Labour council's cuts programme is getting very frayed around the edges as independent campaigns have forced a series of climb-downs. The reprieve for Rhydyfelin library is the biggest blow to the council so far. Parents have also won a High Court case to prevent the abolition of full-time nursery education for three year olds.

The sheer scale of the £56 million cuts in RCT has provoked a big movement of individual campaigns against the cuts. The Rhydyfelin and nursery victories show it pays to fight the cuts and will embolden other campaigns in the borough.

On the day the library was scheduled for closure, campaigners flooded down to the library for a party with food, poetry and a film screening and when the 1.00pm closure time arrived, they simply didn’t go home. Four stalwarts chained themselves to the bookshelves and refused to move. One of the campaigners made a speech declaring that she was putting herself forward as an anti-cuts candidate at the next Council elections.

The campaign intends to stand candidates against the cuts in the election. The campaign and the council cuts have generated interest and discussion about the political alternative and an interest in the idea of TUSC. Some of them have attended the RCT TUSC meeting. RCT TUSC intends to stand a candidate in every ward in the council elections in 2017.

Now is an opportunity to unite the anti cuts movement in RCT and to take stock of the lessons of the victories. It is still possible to stop the current round of cuts, but also to prepare to resist the next round which threatens a whole host of community facilities.

Dave Reid and Mariam Kamish

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