Libraries, publishers and bookshops will suffer under a Conservative government, a leading independent publisher has warned.
When collecting the Independent Publisher of the Year trophy at the Bookseller Industry Awards on Monday (11th May), Profile Books m.d. Andrew Franklin gave a strong speech expressing his views about last week’s general election result, which enabled the Conservatives to form a majority government.
“We have had the worst five days of our lives since 10 p.m. on Thursday [7th May] last week,” he said. “The next five years are going to be very difficult for all of us. Libraries are going to close, it’s going to be hard for bookshops, it’s going to be hard for publishing, but I’m very glad there is a little corner of independent publishing that is still recognised and this is a small consolation in bad and difficult times.”
In a survey carried out by The Bookseller before the election, 46% of the trade said they intended to vote Labour, and 19% Conservative. Many in the industry have agreed with Franklin’s bleak outlook for the future of libraries in particular.
Library campaigner Desmond Clarke said: “I have absolutely no doubt at all that there will be further cuts. From the librarians’ point of view that is the most depressing because I think we will see many more redundancies. Councils look to cut libraries budgets and staff because that is the first thing they think to do. But whether they will lead to actual library closures, I’m not sure . . . we are seeing at the moment libraries moving more to be volunteer-run.”
Laura Swaffield, from The Library Campaign group, said further cuts to local councils were an “absolute certainty”. She said: “We are very careful not to be overtly political because libraries have been closed under both Labour and Conservative-governed councils. But having said that, now the Conservatives have a majority government, if anything it will be worse.”
However, Clarke said the new secretary of state for culture, John Whittingdale, was “much better informed about movements in the library world than his predecessors”. He said: “None of them has showed an interest in libraries in the past, but John Whittingdale has previously raised some questions about volunteer-run libraries.”
Conversely, Swaffield was less than enthused by the new appointment. “He is about as right [wing] a culture secretary as they come,” she said.
Sheila O’Reilly, owner of Dulwich Books in London, said: “I think bookshops will be OK, but I would fear for libraries. I would say their funding is going to get cut and cut. Libraries are an easy target but bookshops are very different. I don’t think there will be any impact on bookshops, but we shall see.”
Peter Donaldson, owner of Red Lion Books in Colchester, agreed. He said: “The challenges facing libraries are unfortunately very real. There are more things that could be improved, such as high streets and support for bricks and mortar retailers. Libraries are another matter—they are clearly going to be hit by more austerity measures.”
The Booksellers Association said new business secretary Sajid Javid will be of considerable importance to the trade, particularly in view of the decision by the Directorate-General for Competition in Brussels to mount a formal Competition Inquiry into the e-commerce sector.
“To have the support of our business minister while these deliberations are going on in Brussels will be exceedingly helpful,” BA c.e.o. Tim Godfray said. Javid succeeds Vince Cable in the role.