25 Essex libraries at risk of closure in future plans

Libraries are at risk of closure Picture: RACHEL EDGE

Libraries are at risk of closure Picture: RACHEL EDGE - Credit: Archant

Women and young people will be disproportionally hit by library cuts across Essex, the county council has been told as it warns around a third its libraries could close.

At least 25 out of 74 Essex libraries face closure Picture: RACHEL EDGE

At least 25 out of 74 Essex libraries face closure Picture: RACHEL EDGE - Credit: Archant

Essex County Council has announced the potential closure of 25 of its 74 libraries, affecting every district.

Those at risk of being withdrawn are because of “relatively low demand, the availability of other services and considering the community served, a library service is not required in these locations”.

Libraries at high risk include Stansted, Holland-on-Sea, Prettygate, Sible Hedingham, and Hatfield Peverel.

Another 19 are at risk if they cannot be run by the community or other partners with support from the council.

Councillor Susan Barker, cabinet member in charge of implementing the potential changes, was told in a meeting that the plans would disproportionately impact women and children first.

Councillor Julie Young said: “Looking at the demographics and usage, these cuts disproportionally impact women and children. In the year that we celebrated 100 years of women getting the vote I wonder why this administration always put women and children in the front line when cuts come.”

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Ms Barker said the concerns were covered by the county council’s duties under the Equalities Act.

Councillor Ivan Henderson asked about impact assessments on children’s literacy, the loss of quiet study areas for children from crowded homes and the loss of broadband for poorer families who need the internet for universal credit applications.

He said: “How are they going to be able to travel to the one district library which is nearest to them in Clacton from Harwich to access those full levels of activities that the people in Clacton will take for granted?”

Ms Barker wanted to see libraries with coffee shops and pre-school groups. She said: “We are not delivering what the public wants at the moment. That is why they are not in our libraries. Take Dunmow library. They have a few things in there but they still need more.

“But there is a district council officer in there, a tourist information in there, we have two small private rooms that can be hired out to groups, why can’t it also be a place where you can collect your Amazon parcel, why can’t you use your swipe card to get in? It works in other place why not in Essex?”