16 November 2018
In a bid to slash costs by £3.7million, 25 of the 74 Essex County Council-run libraries across Essex have been earmarked for closure by 2024 prompting anger and frustration from many already-isolated rural communities.
(Hadleigh Library, one of the many Libraries under threat of permanent closure.)
The "Essex Future Library Services Strategy" includes plans to permanently close 25 of its Libraries, with a further 19 branches potentially being handed to volunteers to run in future.
The report recommends the closure of Great Wakering and Hullbridge (tier 4) libraries, with Hockley, Hadleigh, and South Benfleet libraries also at risk of future closure (tier 3).
The council claims that conventional Library use has "collapsed" in the past decade and that its e-library service is rapidly-expanding providing a sufficient "21st Century Library Service."
The Council claims that the 19 'tier 3' Libraries were “in locations where the council considers that it is not necessary to provide library services in order to meet its statutory duty."
Conservative County Councillor Susan Barker, portfolio holder for Libraries and Community Hubs said:
"We also have to make sure that we continue to offer value for money. That may mean some libraries are not viable. But if that is the case, we want to talk to communities about how they can become involved and run a library service with our support. The consultation is the opportunity to feedback on our plans and make sure that views are heard and considered."
In a recent community meeting about the future of Great Wakering library attended by the Green Party, concerned residents spoke about how the public transport links were not viable enough to ensure that residents could still access vital traditional Library services easily.
Many spoke of their concern over the loss of such a community asset, and how the additional services the library offers, such as free WiFi and as a venue for many social and community groups could not be replaced by a 24/7 online resource.
The three Green Party Councillors in Hulbridge, where one of the many libraries set to close under the proposals is, have organised a petition and released a short statement:
"The Hullbridge Library is an important community Hub and should remain open and fully funded by local government."
The petition is available online, and physically in various locations across the village.
For more information, please email CllrMichael.Hoy@Rochford.gov.uk
The separate petition to save Great Wakering Library is available here:
There are several petitions running concurrently to save the affected Libraries, many organised by Green Party campaigners across the County.
The South East Essex Green Party and our elected Councillors will be working with other community organisations to help publicise the planned consultation and help stop the closure of the affected libraries.
A 12-week long consultation on the future of Essex libraries will take place between 29th November 2018 and 20th February 2019.
You can view and submit a response to the consultation here:
The findings from the consultation will be published and any changes proposed considered in June 2019.
"The South East Essex Green Party recognises that Libraries form a vital community resource that extends beyond traditional book loan. The planned closure of 25 libraries across Essex purely for financial reasons will impact residents in rural communities disproportionally and is therefore unjustifiable.
Poor Public Transport routes mean that for many, the proposed alternative physical Library service recommended by the proposals are beyond the reasonable reach of many, including elderly and disabled people.
Most Libraries provide a much-needed facility for social groups, and the free WiFi service to customers is not something that can be replaced by a cheaper-to-run online resource.
The South East Essex Green Party is opposed to the planned closure of the 25 Libraries across Essex, and we are firmly against the additional threat of 19 further Library closures.
We condemn and refute the suggestion that the sites of planned closure show 'low evidence of need' and assert that these last bastions of physical Public amenity need to be safeguarded against plans driven simply by cost-cutting measures."