Council U-Turn on Library Closures
Labour councillors have volunteered to help keep them open
Proposals to close four of Ealing's libraries have been halted in a surprise announcement made by the Council Leader Julian Bell this evening (14 June) but the mobile service will still shut.
Thousands of residents signed petitions to keep Northfields,Northolt, Perivale and Hanwell Libraries open and many turned out tonight to show their support at the Town Hall.
Labour Leader Councillor Julian Bell announced that the closure threat would be halted and (on twitter) said that Ealing Labour Councillors 'will volunteer to help run our libraries and keep them open.'
This statement has just been released from Cllr Ranjit Dheer
''I very much welcome the chance to respond to these petitions. Let me start by saying that we have listened very carefully to what residents have had to say about the library service and their comments have informed our library strategy which will come to Cabinet in July.
''The library strategy will not propose the closure of any of our libraries. In order to secure the libraries for the long term it will recommend continuing to pursue community management and other alternative models of service delivery.
''We stated at the beginning of this process that we wished to consult with residents about how they feel a modern library service should be delivered. The responses have shown that people value their local libraries. They have also shown that there is a genuine local desire to become more involved with local libraries as volunteers and through community groups.
''The strategy will make clear the need, given the uncertain financial climate, to continue to deliver savings from within the service. The strategy will outline alternative ways of finding our initial target through changes to management structures and adjusting opening hours. This is what people asked us to do throughout the consultation process and we are working to deliver what people are asking for.
Working With The Community
''We also know that the financial pressure is relentless and there will be a need to find more savings. Because of this there is an absolute imperative to continue to work with the community to explore options for alternative models of delivery for library services. We are working on setting up a charitable trust for the libraries in order to find savings. Also several community groups have come forward with proposals to run libraries during the consultation process and we are actively seeking more. We are developing business plans in partnership with these groups in order to secure a sustainable long-term future for all libraries in the borough.
''We are also working with volunteering groups across the borough in order to recruit, train and induct volunteers to help run our libraries. Nearly 500 people came forward during the consultation expressing an interest in helping out in their local library. We are delighted with this response and have begun working with Ealing Community Network and Ealing volunteers in order to make use of this fantastic resource. I can also confirm that the labour group have volunteered to give two hours each to their local libraries in order to match the fantastic response we have received from our local residents. Labour councillors will also continue to hold their surgeries within libraries as far as possible to demonstrate our commitment to the libraries.
''The strategy will also recommend the closure of our mobile library service. This service is extremely expensive to run and as the Conservative Council in Hammersmith and Fulham have withdrawn their support for it the service is no longer viable. It is with great sadness that we will have to withdraw this service however with our partners in Hammersmith and Fulham pulling out we cannot afford to continue to support the service alone. In order to protect vulnerable people and unsure they have access to library services the strategy will be seeking to improve the home library service. We will work in closer partnership with Adult Social services and the voluntary sector to ensure that the home service continues to reach the most vulnerable in our borough.
''This consultation was about asking people how they thought a library service should be run. We indicated our belief that the community should have a greater role in securing the libraries future. Given the level of response and enthusiasm of community groups it is clear there is an appetite to do this. Therefore the council has a duty to invest in our libraries in order to give the community the facilities they need. The library strategy will lay out clear recommendations for capital investment in our libraries to make sure they are fit for purpose.
''At the beginning of this process we made a commitment to listen. We made it very clear to the residents of the borough that we are facing massive cuts to our budgets and we cannot continue to deliver the library service in the way we have been doing in the past. Residents have made it clear to us how much they value their local libraries and so there is a clear need for us to work together to find a new way of delivering libraries in the future. That is the challenge we set ourselves and that is the challenge we continue to face. The library strategy will be the first step in meeting this challenge and I am confident that with the help and co-operation of the residents of this borough it is a challenge that we will all meet.''
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14 June 2011