The British Library (BL) has confirmed it is to close the Public Lending Right (PLR) Office in Stockton-on-Tees. The PLR operation will now transfer to the BL’s Boston Spa site in West Yorkshire.
All current PLR staff in Stockton are now leaving the BL on Voluntary Exit as a result of this decision.
PCS opposed the closure of the PLR Office and campaigned for jobs to be retained in Stockton-on-Tees, a region already suffering from high unemployment. The PCS campaign drew support from Paul Williams (Stockton South MP), Alex Cunningham (Stockton North MP) and Stockton Borough Council.
The PLR Office in Stockton provided an effective service for over 35 years and had an excellent reputation within the author community. When PLR was transferred to the British Library in 2013, the BL announced publically to stakeholders that “it has no plans to transfer the [PLR] operation to Boston Spa in the next 10 years.” However, just 4 years later the BL announced the relocation of PLR to Boston Spa – against the wishes of staff and without local consultation.
There was also little appetite for the closure of the Stockton Office among stakeholders. The BL ran a 6-week “public consultation” with the apparent aim of generating as little publicity as possible. There was not even a reference to the consultation on the BL’s own website! However, where feedback was received directly on PLR location, 64% of respondents either opposed the transfer to Boston Spa or expressed concerns about the impact on staff and the local economy.
Tracy Edwards, PCS Full-Time Officer, said: “The departure of all existing PLR staff on VE is a damning indictment of the British Library’s decision and will inevitably have an adverse impact upon service users. Any proposed improvements to PLR could have easily been made from Stockton. This would have ensured the retention of the majority of existing staff – offsetting the risks to service users and ensuring business continuity. However, the BL has never seriously considered retaining PLR in Stockton and refused to engage with an offer from Stockton Borough Council to assist in finding alternative premises in the area. It’s a sad day that jobs have been lost to Stockton-on-Tees on the basis of this cynical and ill-considered decision.”