SAVE OUR LIBRARIES – An update on the 7 closures in Sefton Borough

At present Aintree Library looks to be the only one of the 7 threatened libraries that may have a reasonable chance of surviving Labour’s cull although I understand that last ditch efforts are being made, once again, to pull an iron out of the fire in respect of Birkdale Library.

This is Independent Aintree Village Parish Councillor Terry Baldwin speaking at an outdoor meeting. Terry is highly respected so to see him being told he could not make representations to an Area Committee Committee meeting by Labour Councillors was a low point of the campaign indeed.

This is Independent Aintree Village Parish Councillor Terry Baldwin speaking at an outdoor meeting. Terry is highly respected so to see him being told he could not make representations to an Area Committee Committee meeting by Labour Councillors was a low point of the campaign indeed.

Sadly the other 5 – Ainsdale, Churchtown, Litherland, College Road and Orrell look to be all but dead in Labour’s water.

4 of the 7 down to be culled fought every inch of the way i.e. Aintree, Ainsdale, Birkdale and Churchtown with a later attempt being made to save Collage Road Library in Crosby. We Lib Dems supported all the campaign groups. Can anyone tell me what the Bootle Labour councillors representing the wards served by Orrell and Litherland Libraries did to stop their branches from closing?

Cllr. Andrew Blackburn fighting for Aintree Library

Cllr. Andrew Blackburn fighting for Aintree Library

Aintree is interesting as the campaign to save it was run very much by Aintree Village Parish Council, supported by Melling Parish Council some local community groups and prominent local business. It has been fronted by the redoubtable Ratepayer Parish Councillors Peter Gill and Terry Baldwin whom I have praised before and have a great deal of respect for.

Cllr. Peter Gill

Cllr. Peter Gill

As the campaigns got going I attended rallies and meetings in support of Aintree Library as did my local Lib Dem colleagues Bruce Hubbard and Andrew Blackburn, whilst Aintree’s Labour ward councillors did not know what to do as it was their party proposing the closure of Aintree Branch Library and the other 6.

The proposal now is for Aintree Library to go forward as a form of chartable trust funded mainly by Aintree Village Parish Council. Melling Parish Council may help fund it to a small degree as well but they have not promised long-term financial support, I understand.

The Library will be renamed and it will be run by volunteers from the local community. A coffee shop within the building is a possibility.

Sefton Council will, I understand, provide books and internet access but that’s about it.

The detail of this is presently being worked up but if all goes according to plan Aintree Library could well be up and running in its new guise by the end of the year.

Separately, I went to York a couple of weeks ago and a visit to Rowntree Park provided evidence of a totally different approach to the funding and provision of libraries in that Council’s area. I will post about what seems to be a far more enlightened way of doing things in York soon.

Litherland Library – A call to save it

Readers of this blog site will know how I and my Lib Dem colleagues have tried to save the 7 threatened libraries in Sefton from Labour’s axe. 3 Library campaign groups in Southport (Churchtown, Birkdale & Ainsdale) together with one in Aintree have recently been putting together plans to run the libraries in a different way to try to save them. So far only Aintree seems to be making headway under the leadership of my good friends Peter Gill and Terry Baldwin and the team they have put together. I am not sure what has happened to the campaign to save College Road Library in Crosby.

Sadly, the picture continues to look bleak other than for Aintree at present.

This was our Lib Dem Team campaigning outside Litherland Library earlier this year

This was our Lib Dem Team campaigning outside Litherland Library earlier this year

I say all this by means of an update and I also publish below a plea for Litherland Library (built in 1937) which came my way very recently following someone now living many miles away hearing of the demise of his old library in Litherland. It is in the form of a letter to the Leader of the Council.

Shelving with style at Litherland library

Shelving with style at Litherland library

*****

I owe Litherland Library an incalculable debt of gratitude. As a child it was a treasure trove, sparking a love of books, opening my eyes to the world and fostering an intellectual curiosity which has remained with me throughout my life.

Litherland and Linacre wards include some of the most severely deprived urban communities – not just in Sefton, but in the whole of Britain – on a range of measures including child poverty and adult educational attainment.

A good library is widely acknowledged to be far more than simply a repository for books. Far more, even, than a social and information hub – important as that is in many less privileged communities. More than forty years in primary education have convinced me – if I had any doubt – that a well-run library with an imaginative programme of activities from pre-school story groups, to author visits and senior citizen reminiscence – can change lives.

An accessible, local library is an engine for aspiration and social mobility.

It is heartening that so many communities within Sefton have sprung into action with imaginative proposals to preserve affordable library services in their area. Nowhere in the borough needs and deserves a thriving local library more than the communities around Litherland Library. It would be a tragedy if, for want of foresight and imagination, future generations were to be deprived of a facility which has served the community so well for almost eighty years.

The Leader of the Council has expressed his willingness to listen. Even at this late stage it is not too late to reconsider.

Carved stone above the door to Litherland Library

Carved stone above the door to Litherland Library

Aintree Davenhill – Official Reopening following rebuild

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I was delighted to be invited to the formal reopening ceremony yesterday in the presence of the Countess of Wessex. Whilst I no longer represent Aintree Village I am told that my efforts in pushing for the School’s rebuild were remembered.

When I was first elected to serve Molyneux Ward (which includes Aintree Village) in 1999 I picked this up as a major issue to be pursued along with the rebuilding of the Oriel Drive GP practice building. Thankfully both have been successfully completed.

I met with Sefton’s then Director of Education in 1999 and followed it up with further lobbying at every opportunity. Finally, the pushing and shoving worked but the real effort was made by Aintree Ratepayers Association and Aintree Parish Council all I did was to get those in control of the local purse strings to take notice and prioritise the School’s rebuild.

The event yesterday was a great success with much singing by the children of Davenhill. A good day indeed.