Helen Joyce: Books relating to gender identity were removed from Yorkshire libraries due to 'internal HR matter' rather than politics

A decision to remove certain books from a Yorkshire borough’s library shelves was not a political one, say senior councillors.

Following a story in national newspaper The Telegraph, which alleged some books by “gender critical” authors were being removed from public view at Calderdale libraries, a councillor has raised the issue.

At Calderdale Council’s Cabinet meeting, Coun Regan Dickenson (Con, Rastrick) referred to the article.

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The council’s head of legal Ian Hughes, read out Coun Dickenson’s letter as he was not at the meeting at Halifax Town Hall in person.

Hebden Bridge Library is one of those managed by Calderdale CouncilHebden Bridge Library is one of those managed by Calderdale Council
Hebden Bridge Library is one of those managed by Calderdale Council

Coun Dickenson said: “Recently journalists uncovered Calderdale Council Libraries are removing books off shelves. This is in the context of the debate around gender identity.

“Whilst I appreciate this is a sensitive topic, we live in a liberal democracy with freedom of speech, freedom of thought, and individual liberty enshrined in our way of life.

“These principles are the differentiating factor between western democracies and totalitarian states, so these actions by the council are entirely unacceptable.”

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Coun Dickenson said it was only two weeks since the council’s ruling Labour group had – successfully – won a motion debate on immigration in which Government rhetoric around that issue was called divisive and “national party figures had made comparisons to totalitarian states”.

“But I should remind you, these such states hide and burn books,” the letter added.

“Therefore, why is the council trying to stifle free speech, and will the council put these books back?

“Also, would the Cabinet agree that it is far better to engage with people with whom we disagree and argue the case for our beliefs, rather than cancel those ideas we find offensive?” said Coun Dickenson.

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Cabinet member for Public Services and Communities, Coun Jenny Lynn (Lab, Park) thanked him for his question and said while some books had been removed, politics was not behind the decision.

“The decision to remove certain books from library shelves was not a political decision.

“It was a consequence of an internal human resources matter, and as such cannot be discussed further,” she said.

The issue has produced a storm on social media.

WRN Calderdale and Bradford, a group which says it is a “grassroots feminist network for women and girls in Calderdale and Bradford” has reported it has received a response about the issue from the council along similar lines, citing Helen Joyce as one of the authors in question.

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The group tweeted: “We complained to (Calderdale Libraries) about the fact that books by gender critical authors had been removed from public view..

“This is what we were told. As taxpayers, we don’t think ‘an internal HR matter’ should dictate what we can – or can’t – read.”

Calder Valley Conservative MP Craig Whittaker has also waded into the issue on social media, accusing the council of being “woke”.

Mr Whittaker, who is standing down at the next General Election, tweeted about the issue: “What a load of tosh! This is the woke brigade at Calderdale Council shown at its best! (Not!)

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“It’s about time we got people employed by the council who applied common sense instead of this ‘Nanny State, we know what’s best for people’ rubbish Will they ever learn?”

His comments have in turn been heavily criticised by commentators who say he should find out what the “internal HR matter” is and avoid using the term woke as a “slur”.