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Date Thursday 29 March 2007

UNISON seeks interdict to keep Glasgow's libraries public

Days before the proposed transfer of Glasgow city council's culture and leisure services to a charitable trust, the union that represents the staff that would be hived off to a new employer is going to court to seek a judicial review of that decision and an interim interdict to prevent it going ahead.

Mike Kirby, Convenor of UNISON's Glasgow City branch said "We believe the Council's proposals clearly breach the 1887 Public Libraries Act which says that there is a duty on the local council to manage the public libraries, museums and art galleries provided under this legislation. That statutory duty cannot lawfully be hived off to a charitable trust as Glasgow propose to do.

"It is not just us that is saying this, but the Scottish Executive - who propose in the new Cultural Bill to change this legislation precisely because it prevents this type of transfer."

The union has been publicly campaigning against the proposals. It says that members are being transferred from a democratically accountable public service to an uncertain future in a charitable organisation established primarily as a tax avoidance measure.

Experience indicates that this is rarely a sound basis for effective service delivery or good employment practice.

Mike Kirby said "This type of transfer is widely acknowledged as a way of avoiding tax, and this is the only possible advantage. To discard hundreds of hard-working staff, snatch libraries, museums and leisure centres away from the people of Glasgow, and to breach the law in doing it is bad enough. To do it as a tax dodge is worse."

The union says there is little evidence that the savings and improvements promised actually materialise. Research into museum trusts in England and Wales has recently highlighted the pitfalls of this route.

Many such trusts suffered funding problems as council support is phased out while voluntary donations either fail to materialise, or do not consistently deliver the funding required to maintain services. This very quickly results in a financial crisis and cuts in services and opening hours. Staff are then threatened with pay cuts and other reductions in terms and conditions. In the longer term this means that the new organisation fails to attract or retain quality staff and management.


For Further Information Please Contact: Mike Kirby (Glasgow City Branch Convenor) 07803 952 261 (m) Dave Watson (Scottish organiser) 07958 122 409 (m) Chris Bartter (Communications Officer) 0845 355 0845(w) 0771 558 3729(m)