CAMPAIGNERS have pledged a summer-long battle to save Southend’s libraries which will include a protest march and e-petition.
The Stand Up for Southend Libraries group will hold a march and rally in the town calling for all branch libraries to be kept fully-staffed on Saturday, August 10.
Organiser Peter Passingham, assistant secretary for Southend Unison’s local government branch and a library assistant at Southend Central Library, said: “We’re having the demonstration as a positive show of support for a quality library service and we want to make it clear users from different branches all agree we need a properly funded service right across the town.
“If anyone at the council thought they could get branch libraries competing against each other, I think we’ll show them that there’s no “divide and rule”
when it comes to libraries we know, love and depend on.
“More people are getting active all the time.”
A cross-party group of Southend councillors has recommended Southend Council hands over Westcliff, Southchurch and either Leigh or Kent Elms libraries to volunteers to run as “community libraries” in a bid to save £378,000.
Derek Jarvis, councillor responsible for culture, believes volunteers will keep libraries open and has pledged to look for other ways to save the cashif too few people offer to volunteer in a public consultation on the plans, which will run until September 8.
Campaigners fear the authority will close branches if no one steps in to run them.
Mr Passingham said: “The community already manages our libraries. It’s why we elect councillors and pay library staff.
“The real community spirit is in our campaign and all the people standing up for their local library, not in a rush for “volunteers”, which is just a cover for cuts.”
However, Mr Jarvis said by March 2016 the library service had to makeasaving of £378,000.
He added: “Not surprisingly, as a library assistant and Unison representative, Peter is understandably committed to protecting the service he works for.
“However, fronting a campaign which, among other things, says “don’t close any libraries”, isn’t really tackling the issue. In fact,it’s avoidingit.”
Demonstrators will meet at Pier Hill at 11am and march to a rally at Victoria Circus where speakers will be heard.
To sign the e-petition visit www.southend.gov.uk or a direct link can be found at stand up for southendlibraries.wordpress.com.
‘Too early for public meeting about changes’
SOUTHEND Council has refused to hold a public meeting over its shake-up of the library service.
Campaigners called on the authority to explain the plans at a public meeting, as it has done over the proposed closure of Westcliff care home, Priory House, and children’s centres, as well as the construction of a new seawall in Shoebury.
The council says it is too early, as the consultation is considering many issues that need to be resolved before a meeting is held.
Derek Jarvis, councillor responsible for culture, said: “During the three-monthconsultation period the library service will be attending many of the events being held around the town which help to promote the consultation and encourage as many people as possible to complete the questionnaire and contribute individually to the review.
“There are many different elements within the proposal that we are seeking views on. Public meetings at this stage would be pre-emptive of decisions not yet made.”
Under the shake-up, which is meant to redesign the library service for the next 15 years, the new Forum Library, which will be shared by the University of Essex and South Essex College, will replace Central Library.
A new library will be built in Delaware Road to replace Thorpedene and Friars libraries in Shoebury, and either Leigh or Kent Elms library will be kept fully-staffed in the west of the borough.
Westcliff, Southchurch and either Leigh or Kent Elms libraries would be handed over to community groups to run.