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SOS cry to save our libraries in Waveney

Kessingland Library.; Photo: Andy Darnell

Kessingland Library.; Photo: Andy Darnell

Archant © 2011

COMMUNITIES across Waveney issued a rallying cry this week as a campaign began to save public libraries from closure.

People at Oulton Broad, Kessingland, Southwold and Bungay could all see their much-loved libraries being closed after Suffolk County Council announced its latest plan to save millions of pounds by slashing 30pc from its books budget.

The proposals were greeted with shock and dismay in the various communties, where there is growing opposition also to the council’s proposals to drop all school crossing patrols and to reduce funding to a number of youth clubs.

But there are hopes that the libraries could be saved from the axe – if groups show a willingness to take them over.

On Tuesday, Suffolk launched a three-month consultation exercise to see if community and voluntary groups or parish and town councils would step forward to take over the day-to-day running of some 29 of 44 of its libraries.

The authority says the community takeover plan is necessary as a cut in government funding means it needs to slash nearly £3m from its annual £9m library budget over the next three years. However, the announcement has led to determined calls to arms from the communities affected – as the search begins for volunteers to step into the breach.

Oulton Broad’s library is included on the hit-list although the building in Bridge Road was bequeathed to the village as a community asset.

Fheona Tubby, vice-chairman of Oulton Broad Community Enterprise group, uses to the library with her two children and, if it closed, she said local people would be forced to travel into Lowestoft to use the town’s central library.

She described the possible closure as “Describing the impact of the possible closure she said: “It will be a massive blow”. She addedsaid: “It will be big loss as a community amenity.

“I dread to think what will happen. But it was bequeathed to the community so I am not entirely sure the could take the library away.”

In Kessingland, there was a sense of huge disappointment that the village library could close - despite it moving more than a year ago to a bigger site on Hall Road as part of thea £4.5m Marram Green sheltered housing complex development.

Liam Martin, chairman of Kessingland Parish Council, said: “The council is disappointed to see Kessingland library is one of the 29 libraries out forward by Suffolk County Council.”

He saidMr Martin added the parish council would be arranging talks about keeping the library open and urged villagers to get involved in the library closure consultation.

John Goldsmith, county councillor for Kessingland and Southwold, hoped that peopleresidents would come forward in large numbers to help run their vital community resource.

He said: “There are a lot of retired people with certain expertise, I suspect, who could help run these libraries by volunteering.

“It would need some from of manager and I would like to see the managers at both libraries kept on as they know the routines and paperwork involved.

“I do not like what the county council is doing to libraries - it will jeopardise the education of youngsters.”

There is a strong glimmer of hope Southwold will retain its library as Southwold town Council is keen to set up a trust to run North Green building.

Jenny Hursell, town council clerk, told the Journal: “We, along with Reydon and Kessingland parish councils, are looking at the documents that have come through.

“I suspect the way forward would be to set up some kind of trust and hopefully hold a public meeting when we have got more information.”

John Perkins, secretary of the Southwold and Reydon Society, said “We would be very disappointed if Southwold Library closed down.

“It provides a tremendous service for all age groups and different types of people.

“We are actively considering what we can do with other groups to keep the library open. It is such a priority and such a part of the town.”

Suffolk County Council says it hopes to save cuts its annual £9m library budget by 30pc by 2013.

It currently costs almost £2.4 to run the 29 threatened libraries, which employ 122 part time staff.

Although Lowestoft’s central library is not on the closure hit list, it and the other 14 county council- run libraries which are not on the public consulation list could end up being run by outside groups.

County cCouncillor Judy Terry, cabinet member in charge of the libraries consultation, said: “We have an excellent library service in Suffolk. Despite the cutbacks we are facing, I want it to stay that way.

“For that to happen we need to look at new ways of delivering the service. Should responses to the consultation prove disappointing it is imperative we make the necessary savings, meaning we may have to close 29 libraries.”

The Have Your Say on the Future of Suffolk Libraries can be read and completed by visiting www.suffolk.gov.uk/librariesconsultation2011 Copies are also available from libraries.

• What do you think of the proposals for our libraries? Send your views to Postbox, The Journal, 147, London Road North, Lowestoft NR32 1NB or e-mail: max.bennett@archant.co.uk and be sure to include your name and address

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