Save Burnage Library

Burnage library opened in 1974, replacing the previous, fire damaged library. Since then, it has provided the community with an essential service for learning and leisure and has maintained a central position in the community as other council services have eroded over the years.

Locally, it is the last surviving public council facility, which provides an essential resource for young and old alike and we are fighting to stop its merciless closure. Please lend your support our campaign and help keep Burnage library open!

Campaign meetings are public and take place at Burnage Community Centre on Wednesday evenings, 6pm - 8pm until the decision on the consultation on the 17th April 2013.

Sign the online petition at;

Alternatively, sign the petitions at the health centre, library and other outlets and don't forget to like our Facebook page at:

Saturday, 11 May 2013

The Relevance of Irrelevance

"Schools and libraries are the twin cornerstones of a civilized society. Libraries are only good if people use them, like books only exist when someone reads them."
- Nicholas Meyer

Within the MCC consultation report is the repeated phrase "Distance: Straight line" in tables within the document. Ignoring that I'm a bit miffed they didn't read the transport reports the Burnage Library Campaign submitted, which shows why this is a somewhat useless measure, it is also an irrelevant measure of impact.

I presented this case to cllr Sue Murphy and Neil MacInnes myself as part of the consultation. OK, so I was treated with some contempt as they obviously didn't listen and from my last post, had no intention of listening. However, that aside, when assessing transport impact on local residents, the straight line measures they use to assess coverage using the locus of a point are not the same as the distance travelled by individuals.

The consultation report includes walking distances and distances by car, but fails to include them in any substantive analysis. As a result, the figures remain based on this mythical straight line distance which is useful  only for an estimate of geographical coverage.

So what's the big deal?

For individuals currently accessing Burnage library, they have to get on a bus to another library. The MCC report proposes that Didsbury and Withington are the nearest alternatives. By the straight line measure, this is technically correct. Withington and Didsbury are claimed to be 1.1 and 1.5 miles respectively from Burnage. The car driving distances are 2 miles to Didsbury and 1.3 to Withington. However, as I hinted at the time, the real implication to individuals is actually a combination of a number of factors. What worries me is MCC really didn't do much more analysis than I gave them and still push the straight line distance as if travelling as the 'crow flies' is even possible. As a point of equality impact, this straight line distance is a meaningless and irrelevant measure.

Coverage Map
Within the report you have this image:

fig 1 - Appendix 11 of consultation report. Proposed library estate coverage map

This is what the proposed coverage of the estate would be if the library proposals went ahead. It is  a diagram built from 1.5 mile radii from every remaining library in the estate after the proposals have been completed.

However, what I don't analytically like about this is that the circles overlap, but I have a very strong suspicion that if MCC are looking for a bare minimum coverage map, the estate is over covered (i.e. the council will be paying money for libraries they don't need) whilst at the same time having lighter or no coverage in other areas. For example, in the centre of the triangle between Brooklands, Wythenshaw and Didsbury, there is a little spot near Northenden which will have zero coverage within 1.5 miles.

So I have superimposed the loci of 1.5 miles over the top, but made each one slightly transparent. The overlaps will obviously become darker, with the more overlap, the greater the darkness (and hence coverage). These overlaps are effectively covered by more than one library in the 1.5 mile radius around it.

fig 2 - Overlay of 1.5 mile catchment areas (click to enlarge)

As has come up in some of my other analyses, Moss Side is yet again double covering several areas and not improving the overall coverage map. Indeed, if you account for the incredibly poor usage statistics for 2012 of 598 borrows per 1,000 population, compared with Burnage (3053), Fallowfield (2726), Northenden (4722), Miles Platting (6520), New Moston (4275) and Levenshulme (4042) and also account for the component of premises cost it has (£3.40) PER BORROW relative to the other 6 libraries of Burnage (£0.41), Fallowfield (£1.75), Northenden (£0.63), Miles Platting (£8.67), New Moston (£1.23) and Levenshulme (£0.85), then Moss Side Powerhouse Library, dare I say, is looking like a waste of resources in terms of service provision and coverage.

To prove it, I removed the circle representing the locus of 1.5 miles around Moss Side Powerhouse, to simulate what the estate coverage map would look like if Mos Side was closed and this is what I got.

fig 3 - Library estate coverage map without Moss Side Powerhouse Library  (click to enlarge)

It doesn't look much different does it? This is because Moss Side Powerhouse Library's 1.5 mile radius is also covered by a host of other libraries (Central, Longsight, Chorlton, Withington, and some of Beswick). So it's removal doesn't constitute any drop in coverage at all. Though, as our previous Transport Impact Analysis shows, it is the closest to Burnage that will remain with a car park!

Take very careful note MLIS, I have not introduced any less coverage, I have not introduced any new gaps in provision and I have also just saved the council £36,389 plus staffing costs, which would cover the premises costs of keeping Burnage AND Northenden library open, maintain Manchester wide coverage and still give change.

Note, given the council's assessment within this consultation report, especially around Appendix 7 and the decision founded upon that, IMD ranking and child population do not matter in this council decision as proven in my previous blog post.

Bus and Walk

For those who have mobility problems, are elderly, or have children, a journey to a library is the combination of walking to or from a bus stop on either end, the journey on public transport itself and the cost of that journey to them. In MCC's own analysis (which in this case matches ours), two buses would be required to travel to Withington tor Didsbury. I quote from the report:

The nearest library would be either Withington or Didsbury - for most people in Burnage this would involve a 2 bus journey, both of which run every 30 minutes."
When you are catching connecting modes of transport, the sequencing of those travel options is of paramount importance. In this example, if you are running late and miss the bus, you will wait 30 minutes for the next bus. Let's suppose the timetables for the first bus has it getting to the connecting stop 1 minute after the bus for the next leg has left. As a result, the two sets of 30 minute waits cited by MCC will collate in this journey. This means someone could end up spending 59 minutes of the journey just waiting compared to 11 minutes actually being on the bus and there would be 8 to 10 minutes of walking in total. That is 59 + 11 + 8 = 78 minutes... 78 minutes to get to a library that is only 1.3 miles away? Do I want to take that chance with two young children?

However, if you get to the first stop on time, the bus timetable has you at the intermediate stop 5 minutes before the next bus is due, then the total waiting time will not exceed that 5 minute period by much. The difference to the total journey could be a whopping 54 minutes over the 78 minute example above.

So what options would we have? Well, for starters, if we neglect the nearest libraries idea and focus on the easiest to get to. For residents of Burnage without mobility issues, which by MCC's report number 93%, the easiest options are not within the 1.5 mile boundary and they are not Withington or Didsbury. It is Longsight library for those who catch the 197 (as this bus travels right through the majority of Burnage) or alternatively the Central Library, as the 197, 192 and 50 stop around there. Certainly for Burnage residents, The cost to anyone travelling to Withington or Didsbury is the same as travelling to the city centre, where the buses run once every 5 minutes. The question is, what is that cost?

Well, the cost to Burnage residents of a journey to and from pretty much any library will be more than a DaySaver ticket costs. MCC included the prices of those tickets in the report, but yet again did almost nothing with them. To put this in context, I'll return to the Charteris report model example of one parent with two children which I posted in my previous blog post. The journeys to the nearest libraries will cost:

  • Didsbury = £7.90 (buses arrive once every 30 minutes 2 buses) 
  • Withington = £7.90 (buses arrive once every 30 minutes, 2 buses)  
  • Longsight = £7.90 (buses arrive once every 30 minutes, 1 bus)  
  • Central/City = £7.90 (buses arrive once every 5 minutes, 1 bus)

This is assuming it's all StageCoach services. If not, it will cost more. So even if I was daft enough to want to spend £7.90 to get to a library I should have on my doorstep, I would most likely want to choose Central, given that the buses are frequent and also that I have potentially got somewhere to take the two kids, though I do have to keep a much closer eye on them. This is nowhere near inside the 1, 1.5 or 2 mile radii cited by MCC.

I don't want to give MCC license to say "Oh, OK then! Catch the bus to central, we'll close Burnage anyway" but I suspect that is what they will do :-(

Car Travel

For the 58% of Burnage households that have the option of using their car, their requirements are somewhat different. However, MCC have not analysed requirements here at all. They assume you can park somewhere near Withington or worse, Didsbury (good luck with that one) and that it will be free. Free parking? In Manchester? This is the council who, a couple of years ago, established extortionate parking charges in the city centre, extended charging hours until 8pm and charged even on a Sunday. There is a 10% hike also waiting in the wings.

I am starting to question how short a memory they think us yokels in the suburbs have. I for one, gave up membership of my city centre gym because it was costing me over £100 a month just to park. If I want to go shopping I either use Stockport or the Trafford centre as they have cheaper parking or free parking.

This is not to mention the extra petrol costs. Note, if as MCC suggests on page 108, teachers are going to be collecting books from remote locations, they are going to be submitting their fuel expenses through the school's expenses process. This means that this is yet another item which comes back to MCC anyway, although maybe through another budget. This is assuming teachers or teaching assistants have any time at all to go and collect books, given their workload.

So how much does it cost to park then? Obviously the consultation report hasn't considered this, but on the assumption you go to the city centre because you can't find a space anywhere near Didsbury or Withington, the car parking charges will vary between £4.00 and £6.50.

As for the fuel, for the sake of example, the parent and two children travel in a 3 year old Renault Zafira 1.8i VVT, the fuel consumption will be around the 38mpg mark. A litre of fuel currently costs about £1.34 and the journey is 5.4 miles each way. So the total cost to travel to Manchester and back is £1.73. In total, parking and driving, it is between £5.73 and £8.23. Add to this any food or snacks you'd give the kids and you have suddenly got an adventure on your hands.


Yet again, a troublesome analysis by MCC. I haven't done as much of a job as I would like, so there may be a 'part 2', but I was fuming at this result also. 

I hope I don't come across like I am picking on Moss Side Powerhouse. It is not intentional and certainly isn't based on poor information, unlike the decisions that MCC are making. However, we have to be mindful that Moss Side Powerhouse doesn't get adequate use and like Miles Platting Library, it costs a lot for that provision. However, unlike Miles Platting it doesn't add any coverage or value to service provision at all.

In the mean time, I am still left here scratching my head as to how MCC could be so callous as to introduce factors into the consultation report which are irrelevant and not take account of those that are relevant.


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