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Government Steps In As Protest Peaks

Government officials have demanded answers from Coventry City Council over its plans to move the library’s information centre and put public toilets in its place.

And the library experts at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport have received conflicting answers to its request for information.

An investigation was launched from the ministry in London after protestors against the move wrote and complained about the move.

They argue that the information centre is too valuable a resource to moved out of the public eye.

A senior civil servant has written to the City Librarian Bob Parsons at the city council asking for the reasons behind the move.

Chief Library Adviser Peter Beauchamp asked:

“We should be grateful if you would provide us with a summary of this proposal, including any resulting changes, and especially reductions in the service that will result.

“It would also be helpful if you could explain the rationale behind the proposal.

“In particular we would be concerned if the move could impede access to the library for those with disabilities, senior citizens, children and socially excluded people.”

Mr Parsons has been off sick for several months, and an answer was sent back from John McGuigan, whose City Development Directorate is responsible for getting the new toilets built.

But library staff, unhappy at the way that the changes are being forced through by councillors, have also written to the government.

A letter sent on behalf of Unison members to Mr Beauchamp said of the information centre:

“Apart from the many regular users who come to browse and find out what they need to know, many people drop in because they just do not know where else to go; some are very confused or distressed.

“Many of the users are from the most socially deprived groups in the city who find the easy access an incentive to use the service.

“They would undoubtedly be deterred, in most cases completely deterred by the need to go to the second floor of the library building.”

The letter adds:

”Staff, trade unions and library users have not been consulted on this plan or involved in any discussions regarding its feasibility.”

Cllr Dave Batten, cabinet member in charge of the project, has said that staff have had a chance to have their input.

But library staff say that is over the design of the toilets, and not the principle of them going in the library building.

Members of the city council’s scrutiny board will look at the decision again tomorrow. If they still disagree with the cabinet’s decision then a final verdict will be reached at the council meeting in the evening.

Protestors are planning to lobby councillors for a final time before the decision is made.
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CWN / Politics / Coventry City Council / 18 Oct 00
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