Austerity

It’s been a while since I have put pen to paper (or, rather, fingertips to keyboard). I was going to write about the redevelopment of Oxford’s public library, which has been relocated to a smaller, temporary location in the castle quarter while the original library undergoes major building work, as part of the multi-million pound Westgate shopping centre redevelopment. The newly expanded and upgraded Westgate, including the public library, will reopen later this year, to, I suspect, great fanfare and publicity. I am eager to find out what the library will look like, and what services it will provide, but as yet, there is little information available. In the age of austerity, it is a rare thing to have a public library redeveloped on a scale such as this.

So that’s what I was going to write about, but then the general election was approaching, and I gave that my full attention instead of this blog. Now, the election still doesn’t feel resolved, as there was no winning majority. The prime minister is stubbornly hanging on, trying to strike a deal with the dubious DUP, even though I felt sure she would have to resign the day after the election results. I voted against the Conservatives, in protest against Brexit, and against the austerity measures that have ripped the heart out of communities across the UK, including vicious attacks on public library budgets. Although, to be fair, I have never voted Conservative in my life, so I was wasn’t going to vote for them anyway.

Then the Grenfell fire happened in London this week, with rising anger pointing the finger of blame at government cuts, which seem to have resulted in cheaper, more flammable building materials being used. Anger is rising out of the ashes, anger at the increasing divide between the rich and the poor. Everyone has the right to a safe home, and everyone needs community services, no matter what their income or social status. Judging by the protests that are happening in London right now, austerity might finally become the dirty, unsayable word it needs to be.

I don’t know where this article is going. It certainly isn’t the one I had intended to write. I’m not even sure if I should have pressed the publish button, but these are my thoughts, and I needed to get them out.

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