THE leader of Thurrock Council’s Labour group, John Kent, has called for a pause to all proposals to move the Central Library from the Thameside Complex in Grays.
At a recent full council meeting, despite earlier comments from other cabinet members that nothing had yet been decided, central services portfolio holder Cllr Jack Duffin appeared to break a confidence when he let slip that plans were well-advanced to move the library into the new council office extension on New Road, Grays, which is nearing completion.
However, it now appears the council, whose ruling Conservative group controversially want to close down the Thameside Complex where the library is currently housed, may have jumped the procedural gun.
Cllr Kent has highlighted legal requirements that need to be undertaken before any library can be closed or relocated, and he believes, if plans are as advanced as Cllr Duffin let slip, Thurrock has not followed the guidelines.
He says: “The provision of library services is a statutory duty on Councils under the 1964 Library Act. The act is very clear that any decision to withdraw or change services cannot be primarily financially motivated.
“Any decision must – by law – be based on the evidenced need of the local population and the Council needs to take into account not only current but future demographic change in the local population.
“When the future of the Thameside was discussed at the corporate overview and scrutiny committee meeting, on the 16th of November, the case presented to members was entirely financially driven.
“In addition to this, before they can make any decisions about closing or moving the library they need to demonstrate they have fully considered the fact that there is a significantly higher proportion of younger children in the Grays population – 26 per cent – who will already have been disadvantaged by the interruption to learning caused by covid.
“These proposals run the risk of disadvantaging them still further.
“No equalities impact assessment appears to have been carried out and the possible closure of the complex and change of site has significant access implications that have not been taken into account.
“I wrote to the council director responsible for the Thameside, on 26 November, asking for a pause to all proposals and to ensure that all the appropriate consultation, needs assessments and Equalities Impact Assessment is carried.
“As of today (Monday, 13 December), I am yet to receive any response.”