Library closures could leave Uttlesford with ‘worst’ service provision in country

PUBLISHED: 10:40 07 February 2019

Stansted Library protest. Picture: SAFFRON PHOTO

Stansted Library protest. Picture: SAFFRON PHOTO

Roger King

Residents and councillors gathered outside Stansted Library on Thursday (January 31) to protest against its proposed closure.

Stansted Library protest. Picture: SAFFRON PHOTOStansted Library protest. Picture: SAFFRON PHOTO

Stansted Labour Party condemned Essex County Council for running down local libraries with an “agenda to close them”, while continuing to concentrate all public services in the “more affluent” town of Saffron Walden.

Freedom of information requests by Stansted Labour spokesman Daniel Brett show that in the past three years, the library has seen its opening hours cut by about 19 per cent from 18.5 to 15 hours per week last year. Its book stock has declined 14 per cent to less than 7,000 items.

Mr Brett said: “Stansted library’s book stock is little more than a tenth of Saffron Walden library and opening hours are just a third. Yet, the library serves a catchment with a population of around 25,000 people, equating to a third of the population of Uttlesford.

“Fewer books to borrow has led to lower loans. A reduction in hours has reduced opportunities for people to borrow. The library saw its computer resources removed as a result of its temporary relocation while the new community hub and library building was being built - a £1.2million project that will stand half empty if these plans go ahead.

Stansted Library protest. Picture: SAFFRON PHOTOStansted Library protest. Picture: SAFFRON PHOTO

“Stansted has seen many services run down or closed in recent years as a result of austerity. Meanwhile, all the resources flow to Saffron Walden, leading to widening inequality in Uttlesford. Yet, Stansted has the most deprived ward in the district and this deprivation will get worse with another cut in local services. It would be a great injustice if these plans went ahead.”

Chairman of Stansted Parish Council, Councillor Maureen Caton, said Essex County Council needs to “honour their commitment” to move the library into the new purpose-built building in Chapel Hill.

“The building, called the Mountfitchet Exchange, is due to be completed by March,” she said. “In addition to the library, Stansted residents will then be able to access a range of services face-to-face including the parish and district councils, the Citizens Advice Bureau and make contact with the new village PCSO.

“If Stansted Library is closed as proposed, along with Thaxted Library, Uttlesford would have the worst library provision in England at a ratio of one library serving 42,000 people.”

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