This is what the site of the former Aintree Library looks like now:-
And this is what it used to look like when it had a flourishing Library:-
Me outside the Aintree Library
Things certainly move on quickly as it seems like only yesterday that a volunteer group was formed to take over this library which Sefton Council had given notice that it no longer was going to run. Of course there were 6 other libraries that Sefton Council swung its axe over – Orrell, Litherland, College Road (Crosby) Ainsdale, Birkdale and Churchtown.
I bet the volunteers who were looking to take over the running of some of the closing libraries are still as angry as I am that they were not given the chance to try to do it. Seeing one of the closed library sites being repurposed, no matter how positive that new use is, does not diminish the anger at how those volunteers were treated by Sefton Council.
The BBC has the story on its web site – see link above
Fighting for Southport’s Libraries
If you type in ‘Sefton’ in the box on the BBC web site article to gain information about your own local authority the following comes up:-
In Sefton since 2010 seven libraries and/or mobile libraries have closed. In 2010 there were 137 paid staff in libraries, compared with 58 now. The council had 80 unpaid volunteers in 2010 and has 164 volunteers today.
Now then the interesting and probably astounding thing here (assuming the BBC information is correct) is that the number of volunteers working in Sefton’s remaining libraries has risen substantially over the past 6 years, indeed it has doubled! But why is this a surprise? Well back in the turmoil of Bootle Labour closing Sefton’s libraries 2 or 3 years ago they made it very clear that they did not want volunteers helping to run libraries! The link below is to pertinent blog posting of mine from back in 2014:-
So where does this leave us? The big questions are:-
* Has Labour-run Sefton ditched its opposition to library volunteers? If so when did they make this most welcome policy shift?
* If the volunteers wanting to take over the running of Aintree and College Road Libraries were unacceptable, why was this the case when the Council has seemingly gone on to recruit other volunteers?
* Why were Bootle Labour so opposed to the volunteers running closing libraries in the first place? Or is it more subtle than that in that some volunteers are deemed to be OK whilst others were deemed to be the opposite?
The murky world of Labour-run Sefton Council means we will probably not be getting any answers soon. And that is so sad.
The Liverpool Echo has the story – see link above
I can’t really express who sad and indeed angry I am to see the former library in Aintree Village being sold off for housing. It was a lovely library, a real heart of the community facility for Aintree Village and Melling.
This is former Aintree Ratepayer Councillor Terry Baldwin speaking at a meeting to try to save the library.
It was great to campaign to try to save the library alongside friends like Peter Gill and Terry Baldwin and many others in 2013 /2014. It was, however, terrible to see how poorly they were treated by Sefton Council and its Labour rulers. All they wanted was a chance to try to run the library using volunteers. They had the support support of Aintree Village Parish Council but Sefton Council denied them the chance to run the library for reasons I still can’t get my head around but assume were of a political nature.
Cllr. Peter Gill another hero of the campaign to try to save Aintree Library.
Yes local Labour MP Bill Esterson did his bit but he was let down by his own Labour Councillors who refused to to either save the library or let the volunteers have a go at running it. Sorry, but Sefton Labour should hang their heads in shame over this and the other closing library sites in the Borough where volunteers were effectively held at arms length.
Now housing is going to be built on the site. Sefton Council has closed the library and disposed of the site but good folks of Aintree have got nothing from the deal.
One thing in the Echo article above is rather ironic though where it says ‘Later that year , 20,000 protesters and local MPs and councillors campaigned to keep local library services running’. Well that’s true but the councillors were Lib Dem and Tory members of Sefton Council, the Labour Group were the ones axing the libraries!
Lib Dem campaigners fighting Labour’s library axe in 2013
The Liverpool Echo has the story – see link above
Well this is a seemingly welcome initiative in Liverpool and it shines Sefton’s Labour rulers in a very poor light indeed as they simply shut libraries in the Borough despite calls for innovative volunteer alternatives to be taken on board.
To this day I can’t get my head around the stubborn refusal of Sefton’s Labour-run Council who just would not embrace and encourage volunteer-run alternatives to library closures.
The story of Liverpool City Council handing some of its libraries over to volunteers is on the Liverpool Echo web site – see link above.
Every time I see a Council handing over its libraries to volunteers to run I say why were Sefton Labour so determined not to allow volunteers to run its closing libraries? It is clearly not a Labour Party thing to keep volunteers at arms length nationally so why in Labour run Sefton?
Ever since Sefton Council ran into its library funding problem and then seemed to lack the will and imagination to reinvent community libraries around the power of volunteers I have been looking at other places where volunteer library projects were given an opportunity to flourish.
Sefton’s Labour Council simply turned its nose up at volunteer bids to run Aintree and College Road Libraries if you recall (see many previous postings on this blog site). Instead of encouraging them they were made to jump through so many hoops only then to be told they had failed the test and to sling their hooks.
Aintree Library – Now up for sale by the same Council that shut it!
Well, as I have said before such negative thinking is not replicated elsewhere. Indeed, in Wigan a Labour run Council there has worked with volunteers and just look at this result:-
If it can work in Wigan why were Labour so determined that volunteer library ventures would not be given a chance to succeed in Sefton?