Bill Esterson, Cllr Peter Dowd and local Labour Councillors atte

Bill Esterson, with Melling’s Al Collins, Aintree Village Parish Council’s Cllrs Terry Baldwin and Peter Gill at the public meeting to discuss the future of Aintree Village Library.

 

More than 100 people packed into Aintree Village's Youth and Community Centre on Saturday evening to discuss the future of the library service.

Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson, Sefton Council leader Cllr Peter Dowd and Molyneux Ward Labour Councillors joined Aintree Village and Melling Parish Councillors and concerned residents at the meeting.

Aintree Library is under threat of closure after the Tory-Lib Dem Government slashed funding to Sefton Council by another £43million over the next two years. Tories and Lib Dems have already slashed Sefton's budget over the past two years by £64.5m, making the total cuts to Sefton Council a huge £107.5m.

The Lib Dems in Sefton suggested the library closure when they were in charge of the council. At the request of the Liberal Democrats, council officers drew up options on how savings might be made. This included the closure of all but six of the borough's libraries - including Aintree Village Library.

Sefton has now launched a consultation on the future of the borough's library service as it struggles to continue to provide all of its current services.

Bill Esterson told the meeting that he had contacted the Tory-Lib Dem Government's Local Communities Minister Eric Pickles to persuade him of the importance of libraries to communities like Aintree Village.

Bill said: "The cuts which Sefton is facing are some of the harshest in the country. The cuts are going too far, particularly when you look at other places in the country. We need to ask ourselves where these cuts leave us as a community?

"It's essential that we keep library services. There's no question about that. We have to find a way of keeping the service. People in this community may well have the answer as to how. I hope that as part of this consultation a solution is found how we can keep the library service in Aintree despite the huge blackhole in Sefton's funding.

"But while that consultation is running, I have asked Eric Pickles a number of questions regarding the government's attack on local authority funding which will leave our councils in a position of funding nothing but the bare essentials. That will not include our libraries.

"I didn't get a very forthcoming answer.

"I also asked Mr Pickles if the government could provide ring-fenced funding specifically for our libraries. The response to this question is a categorical 'no'. The Tories and Lib Dems in Government know they are putting our libraries under threat and they are not willing to do anything to help us to save them.

"But I will continue to campaign in Parliament to fight to save our library services and I will not stop looking at ways in which we can save the service here in Aintree. That is the focus for this campaign.

"We have people here in Aintree and Melling who rely on the library. I will support any effort that keeps the library service available to the here who need it and use it.

"We need to work together as a community to achieve that, for the good of the community."

Sefton Council leader Cllr Peter Dowd said in all his years in local government, he had never known budget cuts like it.

Cllr Dowd said: "From 2010 to 2015, we will have had £190m worth of cuts. That's around 40% of the total budget of Sefton Council cut by this government. We've had 500 people made redundant.

"In December, George Osborne will be making another budget statement. In that, we are expecting to hear him announce yet further cuts to our funding. 

"This Conservative-Liberal Democrat Government is making this decision. They are making the choice to cut Sefton's budget by tens of millions of pounds while places like Dorset, Gloucestershire and Cornwall haven't had anywhere near the same level of cuts. In fact Dorset has had just £1.20 per person taken off their budget. We've had more than £350 per person cut.

"These cuts are now so deep, Sefton Council is struggling to maintain even its statutory duties. Every service currently provided by Sefton Council is under review.

"I completely understand why people are angry when they discover their library is under threat. But everything is under threat.

"If we don't cut from one place, then we have to cut from another place. And the options are running out. We don't have the money. Something has got to give.

"We are getting a good kicking by this government, but its authorities here in Merseyside which are being kicked the hardest.

"It's a very gloomy picture, but we desperately want to save the library service in some shape or form. And that's why I want people to take part in the consultation to let us know what ideas they have for keeping the service going here in Aintree and elsewhere in the borough."

 


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