More than 100 people attended a meeting to discuss the future of Willingdon Library.
The county council has earmarked the facility as one of seven other libraries proposed for closure in the area – with Pevensey Bay, Langney, and Polegate among the others.
Almost 150 concerned residents joined the public meeting arranged by Willingdon and Jevington Parish Council and held at Trinity Church Hall yesterday afternoon (Saturday).
The Eastbourne and Willingdon MP, Stephen Lloyd, also attended the meeting. He said, “Sometimes government knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing.”
Parish councillor Douglas Murray highlighted the financial squeeze he said the present government has put on the county council.
He said, “The spending cap placed on the county council’s budget for next year by the government has made it difficult to deliver services for an area with such a high proportion of elderly people.
“The increase in the living wage has also hit budgets.”
It was reported county councillors had been in discussion with Secretary of State the previous night (Friday) over this issue.
Councillor Colin Swansborough, who chairs the Libraries Review Board, said, “Libraries are not expensive – they represent less than 0.5 per cent of the county council’s budget.
“They provide a valuable service to the community in many ways – the funds for them could be found from elsewhere in the county’s budget without plundering the budgets for social care and children’s services.”
Meanwhile, Willingdon councillor Stephen Shing expressed his concern over the amount of proposed new housing which would need access to library services, and stressed that Willingdon had a lot of elderly people for whom long journeys to the central library was not a realistic proposition.
Many outraged residents spoke from the floor not only about the need to keep Willingdon Library open but also about the flaws in the county council’s strategy.
One speaker said, “The 1964 Libraries and Museums Act says libraries should be available to anyone that wants to use them. It enables library users to decide for themselves if they want to use a library.
“I don’t appreciate the county council telling me whether or not I need to use a library.”
By the end of the meeting an action group was formed and several residents agreed to join with other campaigns to attend a protest event in Lewes.
Meanwhile, the Parish Council resolved to oppose the closure and present a list of detailed objections to the county council.
Stephen Lloyd, MP finished by appealing to people to spread the word and create the political impetus needed to stop the proposed library closures.
The proposals by East Sussex County Council have been put forward in an effort to save £653,000 from a reduction in library buildings, frontline staff, management savings, income generation by co-locating services, and a further reduction in stock fund.
To find out more and to comment on the proposals, visit: https://consultation.eastsussex.gov.uk/economy-transport-environment/draft-strategy/