Essex County Council have begun to consult with residents across the county following the announcement that many of their libraries are likely to be closed in order to save some £3 million.
It is clear that in the last few years there has been a massive drop in the number of residents using the library service as a whole and that this decline is more pronounced in some locations compared with others. As a result, many libraries are set to close, whilst others may remain open but only if volunteer staff can be found to keep costs down.
The simple fact is, that even if 1) Essex County Council were to receive an increase in Government funding, 2) if a Labour Government were to come to power or 3) if council tax was increased, would the library service, in view of the decline in use, be given any sort of priority for extra funding over say schools or social care budgets?
As usual, the local Labour Party are saying “they will fight these proposals”, have organised a petition and have held a demonstration outside one of Harlow’s libraries. However they have no practical solution to stopping these closures.
To maintain a library service, buildings need to become multi use and as a result the costs to maintain services can be shared by other agencies and groups. The library at Staple Tye is already being used by 6 groups from Harlow’s U3A who pay a small sum to do so and this type of arrangement needs to be expanded.
The Harlow Alliance Party have campaigned since it’s launch to see some of Harlow Council’s services being made available at the towns Neighbourhood Centres such as Bush Fair and The Stow. We want to see the Council take a leaf out of the Council at Dunmow, where it has a Housing Officer working at the library, sharing the costs and thus keeping a library service in the town.
The threatened closure of libraries in our town provides an ideal opportunity for Harlow Council to take the bold step and start to provide services more locally and ensure that all libraries in the town remain open.