"Reject Library Closures" - Nigel Ashton tells Sefton Cabinet

Cllr Nigel Ashton has spoken at a meeting of Sefton Council's Labour-run Cabinet to explain why Churchtown Library should be kept open. He also asked the Cabinet to reject all library closures.

Cllr Ashton was speaking on behalf of the Churchtown residents who signed a petition against the proposed closure of Churchtown Library.

Library campaigners Cllr David Rimmer and Jo Barton with some of the petition forms
Here is what Nigel Ashton told the Sefton Cabinet meeting:

"Thank you Chair. I'm grateful for the opportunity to address Cabinet today on behalf of the Churchtown Library petitioners.

"The petition reads 'We call on Sefton Council to make sure that Churchtown Library stays open following the review of the library service. Churchtown Library is an efficient, friendly library and is a vital part of our local community.'

"There is a lot I could say, but I want to concentrate for now on two aspects – usage and people.

"The usage statistics quoted in Annex D of the report before you (page 146) show that last year Churchtown Library issued over 113,000 items, which puts Churchtown in the top six libraries in Sefton for lending.

"The figures on page 151 show that the cost per issue was 57p – making Churchtown the second cheapest library in the Borough in terms of the core activity of lending, showing that Churchtown is indeed an efficient library.

"What sort of people use Churchtown Library – well, all sorts of people, obviously. But two groups in particular are most important – children and the elderly.

"I have the privilege of serving as a Governor of Churchtown Primary School, which is the 7th largest primary school in the country, with a current school roll of 891 pupils.

"The school has close ties with the library and classes are often taken on visits to the library. Older children use the library to learn about a wide variety of topics.

"There was a Full Governors meeting, last night as it happens, and the subject of the library review came up. When I said I would be addressing Cabinet, my fellow Governors asked me to tell you how strongly they felt that closing Churchtown library would have a detrimental effect on the school.

"Churchtown also has a high elderly population and for these elderly library users it is more than just a place to borrow books, it's a place where they go to meet others. For many it is a highlight of their week to go there.

"And the library is not just about lending books, whether standard print, large print, or talking books on tape or CD. The library also lends DVDs, has Internet access, newspapers and magazines for adults and teenagers, quick-reference and local history sections, and lifelong learning opportunities.

"As well as the extensive use made by Churchtown Primary School, which I referred to earlier.

"Internet access is becoming a vital role for branch libraries, as more and more official services are accessed online, and increasingly are only accessible online.

"For an unemployed job-seeker, or a single mother trying to claim benefit, the accessibility of a branch library such as Churchtown is a life-line in the brave new world of online Government.

"Although I'm speaking specifically about Churchtown Library – I'm not playing one community off against another. There are strong arguments in favour of saving Birkdale and Ainsdale libraries in Southport, and the other libraries threatened in the rest of the Borough.

"The recommended option - Option B – would save around £400,000 which is 1% of the savings the Council currently has to find. Every little may help, but this particular 1% is the wrong 1% and has a massively disproportionate harmful effect.

"And don't forget that the library service has already contributed nearly £1million in savings through efficiencies and reduced hours.

"In conclusion I ask Cabinet today to reject all library closures, and specifically the closure of Churchtown Library, and to seek the necessary savings elsewhere."