Council decision to axe seven libraries slammed as ‘appalling’

Councillor Alan Shuttleworth with residents campaigning against the closure of Langney Library in Eastbourne (Photo by Jon Rigby) SUS-170914-103233008
Councillor Alan Shuttleworth with residents campaigning against the closure of Langney Library in Eastbourne (Photo by Jon Rigby) SUS-170914-103233008

Langney councillor Alan Shuttleworth has slammed the decision to axe seven libraries in the county – including the one at Langney – ‘appalling’.

East Sussex County Council said yesterday (Monday, February 26) that plans to shut seven libraries are set to be confirmed at a council meeting next week (March 6).

Langney, Mayfield, Ore, Pevensey Bay, Polegate, Ringmer and Willingdon libraries will close in early May.

Cllr Shuttleworth, who had been battling to keep Langney library open, said, “The appalling decision to close the popular Langney Library will be a massive blow to the Langney community and will hit the most vulnerable and deprived members of the community the hardest.

“As well as a critical role in helping youngsters to gain a love of reading, the community library offers help through internet access for those seeking information on employment, training and benefits, and helps to address issues of equality of opportunity.

“The so-called consultation was a sham, the results were already predetermined as the finance has already been taken out of the budget. The thousands who responded to the consultation or signed petitions have been dismissed as not offering any new information!

“I have already had discussions with the owners and the Manager at the Shopping Centre, and will work with others to try to find a way to keep a Langney community library going.

“I will be imploring the Conservative administration to resist these library closures at the Cabinet meeting next week.”

Nick Skelton, assistant director of communities, said the decision to close libraries was not ‘taking lightly’ and said he could ‘understand the feelings of those communities’.

He added: “Every member of the seven libraries proposed to close lives within a 20 minute drive to one of the remaining libraries. More than 96 per cent are within a 30 minute journey on public transport. The majority of respondents who said they would be affected also said they would still be able to use the service.

“We considered very carefully all of the views people put forward about our proposals and we recognise there are individuals in every community with needs that the library service can support.

“Faced with unprecedented levels of cuts, however, we have to prioritise our resources toward areas with the highest levels of need. But, with the addition of community library cards and improvements to our eLibrary, we believe the draft strategy continues to offer a highly accessible service to all residents.

“If cabinet approves the revised strategy, work will begin on implementing the changes, with the seven libraries and mobile library service closing from Saturday, May 5 2018.

“We will work with community groups and organisations who’d like to explore taking over the responsibility for libraries that would close as part of the new strategy.”

If the county council reaches an agreement with communities or other organisations for them to retain their local library, the libraries in question will close from May 5 and reopen when contracts and agreements are in place.

The strategy is set to save the council £653,000.

Under the revised proposals, the council would introduce initiatives that received widespread support, including a new community library card, homework and study clubs in libraries and increased outreach work in the county’s most disadvantaged communities, while there would also be greater investment in the eLibrary.

The updated strategy includes new pilots for homework and study clubs, while popular code clubs would continue to run.

The Schools Library and Museum Service will also be replaced with a more flexible and affordable option which would create a new Teachers Library Membership allowing them to borrow items on long loan for use in the classroom.