Bill Esterson: Libraries will be consigned to history books as T

Bill Esterson outside Carnegie Library which is threatened with closure because of Tory-Lib Dem cuts

 

 

Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson warned that Tory-Lib Dem Government cuts threaten to consign public libraries to the history books, as local authorities up and down the country struggle to continue funding the service.

At a public meeting in Aintree Village last week, Sefton Council leader Cllr Peter Dowd explained that from 2010 to 2015, the borough will have had £190,000,000 cut from its budget by the Tory-Lib Dem Government.

The meeting also heard that 500 staff have so far been made redundant and all of the borough's services are under review as Sefton struggles with the mammoth financial blackhole.

Bill Esterson submitted questions to Tory-Lib Dem Government Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles calling on him to create ring-fenced funding for libraries.

But in a response this week, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Local Government Brandon Lewis stated: "My department has no plans to create a ring-fenced grant for library services."

Bill Esterson warned that this could be the death knell for our libraries.

Bill said: "The Tories and Lib Dems in Government know what their funding cuts will do to services in local authorities, but more specifically, they know what their funding cuts will do to services in local authorities in the North West.

"Sefton Council, and other local authorities in Merseyside have been hit disproportionately hard by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat slash and burn policy. While Sefton has had cuts of more than £350 for every man, woman and child. Dorset has had just £1.20 cut.

"The Government knows that Sefton is struggling to continue to provide even those services which it is statutory obliged to do so. They know Sefton is struggling to provide the services which really are life and death services.

"And they know that without providing ring-fenced library funding to local authorities, it will be impossible for Sefton to continue to provide the library service which it currently has.

"So libraries like those in Aintree Village and Carnegie in Crosby, and elsewhere in the borough, are under threat.

"If like Dorset, Sefton had had to contend with cuts of just £1.20 per person, our libraries would be safe. The Tories and Lib Dems know this, but still they are imposing cuts of more that £350 per person on us here.

"This is ideological. It is immoral. It is an attack on the people in this borough. And Mr Lewis' and Mr Pickles' refusal to even consider providing funding to safe our libraries is an insult to me, to the people of Aintree Village and Crosby - it is an insult to the people of Sefton."

Bill said he was looking into suggestions that library closures could be illegal.

Bill said: "The Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee recently decided that local authorities were legally responsible to provide 'comprehensive and efficient' library services. But as was said at last week's public meeting in Aintree Village, Sefton Council has 1,300 statutory duties.

"The Tory-Lib Dem Government has cut Sefton's budget so far, the authority cannot provide all of those statutory duties.

"The priority must be those services which are a matter of life and death. But campaigners would argue, and so would I, that library services are vital. It's not about just books. It's about providing a facility for people of all ages. If Eric Pickles is refusing to provide the funding, then we must all look at ways of saving the service ourselves.

"We need to look at all the alternatives for keeping the service.

"I have heard lots of good suggestions so far, but we need to make sure that every option is investigated. That's why I am appealing for everyone to take part in the consultation.

"The Government isn't going to do this for us. They are happy to see our library services die here in Sefton. We need to work together to make sure that doesn't happen."

To take part in the consultation, go to http://www.sefton.gov.uk/default.aspx?page=1821 or fill in a form at your local library.

 

Bill Esterson with Aintree Library campaigners