Sefton Libraries the crunch time is here – Will Labour save them or close them?

On 9th November I posted about my fears that Sefton Council could well be about to walk away from a potentially good deal to save Aintree Library. And walk away from the deal they are certainly trying to do!

A report going to Sefton Council’s all powerful, all Labour, Cabinet meeting on Thursday 5th December is seeking permission for Sefton to block the saving of the Library.

60 volunteers have been signed up to help run the Library and Aintree Village Parish Council is offering to fund the venture to the tune of £20,000 per year. However, the report to Cabinet says all but ‘let it die’ as it does for proposals save Crosby’s Carnegie Library on College Road. Only Ainsdale Library looks likely to be saved according to current Sefton Council sources.

The big test for Labour now is very simple. Via their local MP the cry is to save Aintree Library, but via Labour councillors sitting on Sefton Council the votes have been to close it. And of course the same applies to College Road Carnegie Library. What will Labour councillors do now? Will they do a U-turn and back the closing libraries or will they keep on closing them one by one?

Labour’s twin-track approach of the MP saying one thing and his fellow Labour councillors doing just the opposite is a farce that we have all seen through. Sadly Labour’s stance on Libraries is replicated with regard to building on the Green Belt and high grade agricultural land where the MP says save it whilst the councillors vote to consult on building on it! Labour’s ‘save it – close it’ or ‘save it – build on it’ is an example, in my view, of politicians taking the community for a ride.

Save of Libraries – RIP Churchtown Library closed by Labour-run Sefton Council 15th November 2013

I am grateful to Cllr. Nigel Ashton for this update on how the community on the northern side of Southport is approaching the loss of their much loved library.

Cllr. Nigel Ashton - This photo was taken during the campaign to save the Library from closure

Cllr. Nigel Ashton – This photo was taken during the campaign to save the Library from closure

North Meols Library Association (NMLA) was formed at a public meeting on 10th October 2013 by the local community. It replaces the Friends of Churchtown Library which campaigned, unsuccessfully, to keep Churchtown Library open. The Library was closed by the local authority on 15th November 2013.

The aim of NMLA is to establish a community run library to support Churchtown and the surrounding areas, mainly Crossens, Marshside and High Park. We are in negotiations with Sefton Council regarding an unused council building but it is early days and will take some time.

In order to provide some continuation of library services in the community we have already set up an internet cafe with the support of Crossens Community Association to, in a small way, replace access to the internet following the closure of the library. We are also working to set up a Storytime / Rhymetime group, another library service no longer available to the community.

Save our Libraries – Aintree rumbles on as Sefton grumbles on.

I have posted many times before about the determination of Aintree Village Parish Council to save its community library from closure. So determined are they that around £20,000 has been pledged, per year, by the Parish Council to support the new volunteer led venture.

But things look like they may be stalling with Sefton Borough Council potentially getting cold feet? The sticking point looks likely to be the one-off investment in the property by Sefton to bring it up to a reasonable standard of maintenance before the hand over is agreed.

Lib Dem campaigners fighting Labour's library axe

Lib Dem campaigners fighting Labour’s library axe

I am informed that the Borough has been and maybe still is seeking some form of binding/legal agreement with the Parish Council/volunteer group along the lines that they will guarantee the funding and running of the library under its new guise for 25 years. Personally I think that is unreasonable and in bad faith.

The Borough will still own the building and the site it sits on even if the new venture fails (which we all clearly hope it will not) at a future date so where’s the risk? The site is quite large so realising its value should not be an issue if the worst happens.

And what of the Parish Charter with Sefton Council and its 10 Parishes which says how they will try to work together etc.? It seems that going forward as a partnership based on mutual trust and what is best for the Aintree Village community is not the highest of Sefton’s priorities, more that it is looking suspiciously upon a Parish Council and volunteers who have frankly embarrassed it by their determination to try to save their library.

I hope this saga has a good outcome but time is ticking with the Borough wanting to close the Library in December. They just need to trust the Parish Council and volunteers to try to make the venture work and encourage them in the process rather than being grumpy and difficult.

And this is what a Labour-run Borough Council does. How very sad. I do hope that the Labour great and good don’t stand outside the Library for a photo opportunity, if they finally decided to let it live, claiming they saved it! You know the cheeky beggars would.

Save our Libraries – Sefton Council cancels meeting with Aintree Village Parish Council tonight

My posting of a couple of days ago about Aintree Library finished with news of a Special meeting of Aintree Village Parish Council regarding the future of Aintree Library, which Labour are trying to close.

That meeting was supposed to have taken place earlier this evening but was called off because Sefton Council pulled out of it.

The clock is ticking, Aintree Parish Council have all their ducks in a row yet Sefton Council will not come to an agreement with the Parish Council that would allow the Library to operate under a volunteer regime backed up by funding from the Parish Council.

I sadly suspect a rat here, but desperately hope I am wrong. Come on Labour don’t let this Library fall because your pride is being hurt by volunteers taking on what you are trying to shut.

SAVE OUR LIBRARIES – I brief look at the innovative York solution

I mentioned in a recent posting about Sefton’s appalling library closure programme that I had been to York this summer and had become aware of what that Council is doing to try to bring the costs of running its libraries within the available budget.

York’s solution is innovative and seemingly really positive as its aim is just the opposite of Labour run Sefton. In Sefton Labour is closing 7 libraries unless community groups wish to save them and they are doing it in some of the poorest communities in the Borough! In York the Labour run Council are trying to keep the network of libraries up and running; closing them seems to be the last thing on that Council’s mind!

The unique café/library in York's Rowntree Park

The unique café/library in York’s Rowntree Park

A visit to Rowntree Park in York brought all this to my attention because in that lovely park (which is similar to say to Botanic Gardens or Hesketh Park in Southport) there is a relatively new an innovative facility. It is a café which also doubles as a form of library. It seemed to be hugely popular with park users and with parents of young children in particular as they were in and around it drinking coffee whilst reading to their youngsters. A really fascinating leaning and relaxation experience for all.

But what I also learned via a string of detailed information posters placed in this café/library was that York was setting up a new way of running all its libraries called a Community Benefit Society, in effect a charitable company/organisation.

There was huge amount of information and if I understood it all properly library staff and library users were really up for giving it a go. But what has really got my goat is that Labour run Sefton refused to look at such options that library groups and indeed we Lib Dems have been suggesting where volunteers and paid staff work together to deliver quality library services.

OK it may not work but why on earth simply plump from closures of Libraries without in communities across Sefton without trying out such an innovative solution? Oh, the narrow mindedness of socialism in Sefton really is so stifling!

A few random events – Maghull Council meeting cancelled, thoughts for Library staff & what’s going on with Southport Pier?

I got a call this morning to tell me that the Maghull Town Council meeting due to be held tonight was to be cancelled due to the Acting Town Clerk being unavailable due to illness. I can’t recall a meeting being cancelled before because of officer illness in all my years as a Maghull Town Councillor but let’s hope that our Acting Town Clerk is well soon.

Tomorrow is the day, I am told, when Sefton’s Library staff will find out the employment consequences of the Labour run Council’s Library closure programme. I came across many helpful friendly library staff when I was visiting the libraries under threat of closure a few months ago and I covered my visits at length on this blog site. I think we will all feel for them.

And what about the surprise news regarding Southport Pier and the cracks in it? The pier tram has stopped running and engineers are giving the whole structure a detailed examination. Let’s hope for some better news here as Southport pier is to repeat a phrase I used recently on this site, in respect of Bootle’s Litherland Road canal bridge, an engineering gem.