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Libraries back on county’s agenda

PUBLISHED: 09:00 15 July 2011

Protestors campaigning to save Stradbroke Library

EADT 7.2.11
EADT 8.2.11

Protestors campaigning to save Stradbroke Library EADT 7.2.11 EADT 8.2.11

THE future of Suffolk’s libraries again dominated the latest meeting of Suffolk County Council.

The county’s cabinet is to discuss the next stage of the development of the library service at its meeting next week – but yesterday’s meeting of the full council heard from campaigners seeking to ensure libraries stayed open and also played host to a debate on the subject sponsored by the Labour opposition.

James Hargrave, who has been spearheading the campaign to save Stradbroke library, said campaigners had been encouraged by comments from the county council that no libraries would be closed.

He said: “I am going to say ‘thank you.’ Several libraries in Suffolk look to have a brighter future with some 25 looking to be reasonably safe now especially in Suffolk’s towns. I would also like to thank the council’s officers for doing a difficult job.

“It is also right to acknowledge that this is a victory for the campaigners. Although this is not the end, by any means, of our campaign, which goes on.”

After reading the council’s new document he said that 19 libraries out of 44 across the county still appeared to be under threat: Capel St Mary, Clare, Debenham, Elmswell, Glemsford, Ixworth, Kedington, Kessingland, Lakenheath, Lavenham, Long Melford, Kesgrave, Stradbroke, Thurston, Wickham Market, Oulton Broad in Lowestoft and Rosehill, Stoke and Westbourne in Ipswich.

During the Labour-led debate later in the meeting, county councillor with responsibility for libraries Judy Terry said it was working hard to ensure no libraries were closed.

Labour had proposed a motion calling for all libraries to be retained until 2013 but Mrs Terry proposed an amendment calling for the cabinet to retain the existing library network and continue to work with communities to ensure its long-term sustainability.

She said: “We have had many expressions of interest from people who want to be involved with running their libraries and I am confident the network will be retained.”

Council leader Mark Bee pledged that there would be a full debate at the county council before any final decisions were taken about the future shape of the library service in the county.

Labour leader Sandy Martin quoted from his party leader Ed Miliband’s speech at the Local Government Association conference: “We are not against volunteers, but if you want people to volunteer at the local library, it’s a good idea to keep it open!”

The cabinet is to debate the report on the libraries at its meeting next Tuesday and is due to discuss further details after another report is prepared for its meeting in November – after which the issue is due to be brought back to full council.

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