Over the border: Worries over library closure threat

By Local Democracy Reporter
Steve Shaw

COUNCILLORS from opposing parties are trying to save libraries in Basildon – one says the service should continue as they are, the other says it needs to be “modernised”.

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The libraries in Vange and Fryerns are under threat after Essex County Council announced they were considering the closure of up to 25 sites across the county.

To save them, Labour councillor Allan Davies of the Fryerns ward, will put forward a motion at a full council meeting calling on councillors to oppose the closure because they are in wards that have “significant areas of deprivation”.

He said: “I’ve brought this motion to the council because I am deeply concerned about the impact the removal of Fryerns and Vange libraries will have on the local community. Residents don’t just use libraries for books. Our libraries also provide job clubs, baby and toddler groups and people without the internet at home rely on library computers to access essential services.

“This is an attack on hard-pressed families and we need to send a strong message to the Conservatives at Essex County Council that these proposals are unacceptable.”

However, rival Tory Councillor Stephen Hillier of the Langdon Hills ward has also put forward a motion that calls on councillors to acknowledge that current library services are no longer sustainable and need to be modernised.

He said: “The reality is that libraries in Essex have seen a dramatic drop in the number of loans going out, from about 8,000 per year to about 4,000. That is about 50 percent and it is not sustainable when you look at how much the service costs the council. The service is going to have to change to be sustainable.”

Mr Hillier’s motion suggests that rather than close the libraries in Vange and Fryerns, the county council should change them from traditional libraries, known as tier 4, to tier 3 libraries which would mean they would be community-run. This would mean the county council would only partially support the service.

He added: “This is an emotive subject and there are those who benefit from there being a library service, but those who say that it has to carry on as it is are not looking at the reality of it.

“The idea of a public library was from the Victorian era when most of the population couldn’t read, you can’t continue that model. Things have to change.”

Both motions will be discussed at Basildon’s full council meeting on December 6. Residents can also have their say through Essex County Council’s 12-week consultation which was launched on Thursday.

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