Wednesday, 27 February 2013




As many will know Sefton Council holds its crucial budget meeting this evening.  One of the Labour-proposed cuts of most concern locally is the proposal to close Birkdale Library, together with Ainsdale and Churchtown Libraries.  In fact more than half the current 13 libraries in Sefton would shut under the so-called “Option B” plan.

Concerned local residents and councillors have been highly active over the past 4 months in campaigning against the closure plan.  Petitions containing 12,500 signatures were submitted to Sefton Council’s ruling Cabinet 2 weeks ago calling for all three of Southport’s branch libraries to be saved.

For example, the highly active Birkdale Library Action Group (BLAG) has been fighting a vigourous battle.  BLAG was founded by Birkdale residents Peter Rimmer and Terry Durrance and Birkdale councillors have been actively involved from day one.  Scores of local residents have been involved in leafleting homes, collecting petition signatures and researching alternatives which might save the Library.

My Birkdale colleague Simon Shaw has been particularly involved and has played a major role in drafting two financial submissions which put forward a way of saving (initially) Birkdale Library and subsequently all three threatened libraries in Southport.

BLAG submitted a detailed submission to the Cabinet meeting 2 weeks ago.  This was primarily written by Terry Durrance, with Simon contributing the financial appendix.

Immediately following that mid-February Cabinet meeting members of BLAG and the other two library campaigns in Southport (Ainsdale and Churchtown) met and agreed to join forces and make a ‘Joint Further Submission’ to the Council.  In it they put forward a comprehensive “feasible and sustainable alternative” to the Council’s “Option B”.

This latest submission was prepared by Simon, with assistance from colleagues, and is included on the agenda of this morning’s Cabinet meeting.  You can read it in full here:

On Thursday last week leading members of the 3 library campaigns attended a meeting at Bootle Town Hall with Councillor Peter Dowd and Councillor Ian Moncur, who is the cabinet member responsible for libraries, to discuss the ‘Joint Further Submission’   Terry and Simon attended on behalf of BLAG, Cllr Haydn Preece and Melanie Horridge from the Friends of Ainsdale Library and Cllr Nigel Ashton and Elaine Langley from the Friends of Churchtown Library.

Simon explains: “We were very pleased to be able to meet with Cllr. Dowd and Cllr. Moncur and set out the thinking behind our detailed submission.  The Council has decided it needs to save £400,000 on libraries.  Our detailed plan puts forward a way of keeping the libraries open with a slight reduction in opening hours at the libraries under threat, and by building up a team of volunteers to help in each of the libraries.”

“In our Submission we say that we think there needs to be an average minimum of 10-15 volunteers recruited for each library.  We would see there being a major role for the various existing Friends groups in recruiting volunteers and organising volunteer rotas.” 

“However we do acknowledge that there are important legal aspects to volunteers, for example vetting, CRB checks and so on, and we do recognise that this aspect needs to be organised by an employed member of the library service.”

“We very much hope that our ‘Joint Further Submission’ can provide the basis of a sustainable solution which removes the threat of closure from our local libraries.”

I hope to have more to report on this important topic following this morning’s Cabinet meeting meeting and the Budget Council meeting this evening – both of which are taking place at Bootle Town Hall.

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