No more library closures, urge city Lib Dems
Concerns have been raised about the future of branch libraries on Wearside as Sunderland City Council makes further cuts to the libraries budget.
Ruling Labour councillors in the city council’s cabinet have today (Wednesday 20th July) agreed to review the future of library services in Sunderland, after deciding to make further reductions to the Library Service’s budget.
The cabinet is drawing up “a future service model for library services in order to ensure that this continues to be accessible to the city’s residents whilst delivering the service within the available budget.”
Sunderland Council will consult with residents before firming up their proposals later in the year. Changes as a result of the budget cuts will come into force in April 2017.
Wearside’s Liberal Democrats said they fear this review of library services could lead to further library closures, and urged the Council to look at all possible options – such as the use of volunteers or renting space in library buildings to businesses to raise money – before they consider closing any of the remaining 11 libraries in the city.
Sunderland Council closed 9 of the city’s libraries in 2013, despite protests by campaigners and residents. Hendon, Doxford Park, Monkwearmouth, Southwick, Silksworth and East Herrington libraries in Sunderland were axed, as well as branches at Easington Lane, Fencehouses and Washington Green.
Earlier this year, figures unveiled by Wearside Liberal Democrats revealed that Sunderland Council spent £182,280.25 on the 9 libraries in the two and a half years since the branches were closed. The money has been used for things like maintenance of the buildings, utility bills and security costs incurred with keeping the buildings empty.
Commenting, Diana Talbott Matthew, Lib Dem campaigner for Seaburn and Fulwell, said:
“Back in 2013 local residents and campaigners worked hard to save libraries like Fulwell from closure – it would be a real kick in the teeth if Sunderland Council now tried to close our library altogether.
“Even though library opening times have been cut back, it is vital that library services are available for people who can’t make it into the city centre to borrow books or use the internet for homework or to apply for jobs.
“Liberal Democrats across Sunderland will be fighting to save our remaining branch libraries from closure, because once they’re gone they’re gone.”
Lib Dem Councillor for Millfield and Thornholme Niall Hodson added:
“We have huge concerns about the future of local libraries like the ones at Kayll Road, Fulwell, Shiney Row and Ryhope that have already had their opening hours severely cut. Labour councillors have undermined our branch libraries and we fear they may now be trying to get rid of them completely.