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.

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

Save our Libraries – Birkdale Library

I think it fair to say and I think I said it myself when it first became apparent, some months ago, that Sefton Council for Voluntary Service (CVS) wanted to take over the Library, that I was at best uncomfortable with the idea.

Cllr. Iain Brodie-Browne

Cllr. Iain Brodie-Browne at Birkdale Library

You see I look upon Sefton CVS as being there to support volunteers yet in Birkdale they went over the heads of the volunteers who had come together to try to save the Library and put in a bid of their own. This is hardly supporting volunteers, more seeing an opportunity.

Sefton CVS is one of the biggest CVS’s across the Country and I know that in some quarters there is a fear that it has grown into too much of a business and not enough of being a volunteer organisation. And I must say that I have heard such concerns over a number of years.

Moving on, please take a look at Birkdale Focus the blog site of Cllr. Iain Brodie-Brown as the consequences of the CVS bid to take over Birkdale Library seem to quite profound indeed.

http://birkdalefocus.blogspot.co.uk/