Cross-party unity against proposed library cuts and closures
- Credit: Celia Bartlett
Campaigners held a protest against proposed library cuts and closures outside Saffron Walden Library on Saturday (January 2).
Representatives from Liberal Democrats, Labour and Residents for Uttlesford were out in force with local residents to hold a cross-party protest against the plans.
The Conservative administration at Essex County Council is proposing to close the libraries in Stansted and Thaxted. In Saffron Walden, campaigners say the county council intends to reduce opening hours and cut staff, having already reduced the book stocks.
The Liberal Democrats, the opposition party on Essex County Council, have started a county-wide petition which already has thousands of signatures, and more than 150 more people in Saffron Walden signed it in less than an hour on Saturday.
The petition calls for Essex County Council to abandon its plans to close libraries.
Councillor Mike Hibbs said: “Libraries are a lifeline for the disadvantaged, and a vital part of growing up for our young people. They are symbolic of a community that cares.”
Saffron Walden Residents for Uttlesford councillor, Dr Barbara Light, who organised the protest, said: “Thank you to everyone who came together for our community in freezing temperatures to stand up for our libraries. Local residents of all ages and from the different political parties sent a clear message to Essex County Council to keep their hands off our libraries.
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“This isn’t just about books – our libraries provide a range of community services and are the heart of our towns and villages. They provide vital services, where young children go to play and discover the wonders of knowledge. Where older, sometimes lonely, people go to read newspapers, have a chat, or do a jigsaw or use a computer.
“Residents have had enough of endless and mean spirited cuts to our community services. We are the fourth fastest growing district in the UK and we need investment in our libraries - not divestment. Uttlesford is already not getting its fair share of library budget and they now want to close half our libraries and reduce services in the rest.
“Closing Thaxted and Stansted libraries would only save a paltry £13,000 so it’s clearly not about the money.
“If the Conservatives do close Thaxted and Stansted libraries, Residents for Uttlesford has vowed to find a way to re-open them. We cannot allow our libraries to be destroyed.”
Saffron Walden Labour Party also supported the demonstration outside Saffron Walden Library.
Party spokesman Simon Trimnell said: “The Labour Party will always be open to working with others to defend our hard-won public services from attack. Opposition parties in Uttlesford are united in opposing these Tory cuts. The Labour party will continue to fight ideologically motivated austerity at all levels of government. It is a sad day when politicians working together for the common good is viewed as a source of suspicion.
“We support keeping all libraries open as a community resource for the young, the old, the poor and needy from the lonely pensioner seeking some relief to the parents with children who want to open their minds through reading.”