Liverpool libraries face closure in light of budget cuts

A special select committee has been organised to decide the future of Liverpool’s library services.

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It has been proposed by Liverpool City Council, that eleven of the city’s nineteen libraries may face closure in light of government-enforced cuts to funding. If the proposal is successful, the government are set to save around £2.5m whilst communities are set to lose valued resources.

Libraries being considered for closure include Breck Road, Dovecot, Fazakerley, Kensington, Lee Valley, Old Swan, Sefton Park, Spellow, Walton, Wavertree and West Derby.

The proposed move has been described as a ‘disaster for the city’, with Green Party Councillor Tom Crone saying:

 “Local libraries are an important resource for the young, the old and disabled people, who find it hard to travel into the centre of town and maybe cannot afford internet access at home.”

At around 4:30 on Wednesday afternoon, protestors opposed to the closures gathered outside of Liverpool Town Hall, with Former militant leader Tony Mulhearn handing out fliers on behalf of Liverpool Against The Cuts & Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition. He believes Mayor Joe Anderson “can’t be allowed to get away” with closing 11 of the city’s libraries.

The meeting to decide the future of the libraries ensued, and Greens Councillor Tom Crone says he expects the plans to be rubber stamped sooner rather than later, despite campaigners working hard to save our libraries.

The meeting received a significant turnout and included Councillor Wendy Simon, Cabinet Member for Culture & Tourism,  though Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson failed to make an appearance.

The select committee were present to consider the library review and scruitinise the council’s plans to cut back in these areas.

First to speak was Cllr Simon, who gave a presentation informing the committee of the £156m worth of cuts Liverpool council has been tasked to deliver. She says the council has already made £173m of cuts since 2010 and described these cuts as “painful”.

Cllr Simon went on to say:

 “We just haven’t got the money to maintain all the services we’ve got at the moment.”

On the subject of Liverpool Central library, Simon reassured attendees, adding:

 “We are going to keep an award winning library service in Liverpool.”

Other libraries currently not under threat of closure are Central, Allerton, Norris Green, Childwall, Croxteth, Parklands, Garston & Toxteth

Many took to social media to voice their opinions, with lobby group ‘SaveLiverpool’ posting: “A meeting of utmost importance regarding closure of city resources, yet Mayor Anderson is noticeably absent #saveourlibraries”

Cllr Hetty Wood considered the idea of moving control of libraries to community groups, using volunteers and community members to keep libraries open, to avoid depriving the areas of these facilities.

Cllr Simon expressed her sympathies, saying:

“We know the hurt this is causing to this city. It’s tough decisions we have to make but we do have to make the budget balance.”

Green leader Cllr John Coyne suggested that we should delay proposals whilst all options to direct funding into library services were explored.

The committee has approved the next stage of proposals, and a four week consultation on the library closures is likely to begin imminently.

Words: Daniel Pearce

Source: Liverpool Echo

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