Suffolk: Communities to step in and save libraries

SUFFOLK’S rural communities have vowed to do everything possible to keep their libraries open after the county council put up to two-thirds of them at risk of closure.

Twenty-nine of the 44 libraries are facing the axe as Suffolk County Council looks to slash its spending on the service by 30% over the next three years.

But villagers and residents living in market towns have said they will consider stepping in where necessary in order to see their libraries survive.

John Perkins, secretary of the Southwold and Reydon Society, said the town would “do everything humanly possible” to keep its library open.

“We would be very disappointed if Southwold library closed down,” he said. “It provides a tremendous service for all age groups and different types of people.

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“We are actively considering what we can do with other groups to keep the library open. It is such a priority and such a part of the town.”

Steve Smedley, who has begun a campaign to save Leiston library, said users could face a 40-minute bus ride to Halesworth or a 60-minute bus ride to Woodbridge if the plans got the go-ahead. He said residents would be fighting to force the council to reconsider.

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“As always, the largest impact will be on those on low incomes, including the elderly, single parents, and those not in employment,” he said.

“Local children without access to the internet at home will also find themselves at an enormous disadvantage when it comes to completing school homework and other projects.It is vital that this essential public service in Leiston is kept open for the benefit of everyone in the area and we will be fighting hard to ensure that it does.”

Stephanie Bennell, chairman of Framlingham Town Council, said: “I’m personally quite surprised that all 29 community libraries are on the hitlist.

“We can do one of two things – throw our toys out of the pram and chain ourselves to the library railings, or regard it as a challenging opportunity and look into options into keeping the library open. We will be discussing it shortly, but there is so little information available to us at the moment.”

Aldeburgh mayor Julian Worster said: “It will be discussed at our next meeting and I’m sure it is going to be a very emotive subject. I’m sure there will be strong feeling that we should be trying to do something to save it.”

Betty Warnes, former Bungay mayor and leader of an evening reading group at Bungay library, said it would be terrible if the town lost the facility.

She said: “I think it would be disastrous for the town. The actual building does not belong to Suffolk. It was given by a benefactress to the town, Kathleen Bowerbank.

“It was only opened in 1992 and it is a beautiful building. I realise there have got to be these cuts.

“Maybe libraries are one of those things the Big Society can wade in to continue. It would be terrible for Bungay to lose it.”

Alan Biddle, clerk of Wickham Market Parish Council, said: “We will consider the issue of our library once we’ve had the opportunity to local at the facts and figures from the county council.”

Eye Town Council member Charles Flatman was “appalled” by the proposal to axe the libraries.

Mr Flatman, 79, said: “I don’t know where the nearest one would be if ours closed.

“How are they going to implement this – would they get a mobile library? I don’t know.

“There’s a tremendous amount of disquiet amongst Mid Suffolk district councillors about what’s being suggested.”

Stuart Gemmill said he and fellow Stradbroke parish councillors had already been in discussions about the possibility of stepping in to take over the village’s library.

He said: “It depends on the financial aspect. Providing that we can take over the running of the library without it costing an arm and a leg to the community, then that’s what we would do. It would be really sad to see it go.”

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