Library campaigners claim another victory for “people power”

Communities / Fri 20th Jan 2023 at 07:55am

CAMPAIGNERS from SOLE have welcomed an assurance from Essex County Council Deputy Leader Louise MacKinlay that what they described as a “closure plan by stealth” has been dropped. 

The assurance from the Deputy Leader came at last week’s Families and People Scrutiny Committee meeting, in response to a question from SOLE’s Andy Abbott.

He asked the meeting:-
“Under the previous strategy, Councillor Barker did boast that she was going to set up ‘the largest network of community libraries in the country’. Or so-called community libraries, because as they really should be called charity shop libraries, because the plan was to get rid of the staff, even sell off buildings, and to have volunteers not only running libraries, but to be responsible for housing them as well.” 

“This as we all know was the main campaign issue for SOLE following the previous U-turn. so what we really want to know is has this closure plan by stealth now been dropped? Or let me put it another way so it’s a nice, simple, yes or no answer, no politician’s waffle.”

“Are you currently seeking, or will you accept, 

or will you accept, offers from voluntary groups to take over and run our currently professionally run libraries?”

Councillor MacKinlay responded with a very firm “no”.

Later in the morning the previous portfolio holder for libraries and member for Dunmow Councillor Sue Barker distanced herself from the previous strategy.

“When you are a cabinet member you very much do as your leader tells you, so the whole community libraries thing was very much the baby of the previous leader” she told the meeting.

“New leader – new direction, and that’s good.”

“We have campaigned against this closure plan by stealth for several years now, so to finally to receive the assurance it’s been dropped is great news for everybody in Essex. This is another victory for people power” said a statement released by SOLE.

“Just how bad this old plan was is rather underlined by even Councillor Barker distancing herself from the strategy. That is very telling. We will now of course hold Essex County Council to this promise.”

A recording of the last Policy and Scrutiny Committee meeting will be found here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MNnGyH0ypa8.

Mr Abbott’s question will be heard from, while Councillor Barker’s comments are from 1.06.28

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