Bill Esterson: The top priority is to find ways of saving the li

Bill Esterson with Cllr Terry Baldwin and Aintree Village Library campaigners.

 

Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson told last Friday's Aintree Library campaign meeting that he had been inundated with calls from local residents who say the Village library is a vital lifeline.

In a statement to the meeting, Bill said residents from Aintree and Melling had told him that the library was more than just a place where they have access to books - it was the hub of the community. 

Bill said: "The news that the library may close has come as a blow to Melling and Aintree. People have told me how much they value the library. 

"The library means more to this community than a place to borrow books. It is used by young and old alike and is a lifeline for a number of people. For many people it is the place they go to read the paper. For others it is the internet and a place to find information. For some vulnerable people the library is a vital service, the only community facility in Aintree run by Sefton Council.

"Travelling by public transport to Maghull or Netherton is not straight forward if you live in Aintree. And neither is a 40 minute walk via Switch Island."

Bill said Aintree Library was at risk directly because of the Tory-Lib Dem Government's cuts.

Bill said: "Sefton has to take £107.5 million out of its budget. £43m of that has to be cut in the next two years.

"The stark reality is that Sefton is in an impossible position. Northern towns and cities are being hit the hardest in these council budget cuts. Some councils in the south haven't had any cuts this year. Some have even had an increase in their budget while Sefton's cuts, for the size of its population, are bigger than almost anywhere else in the country. In the next few years much deeper cuts will hit councils including Sefton and there will very few services left at all."

He told the meeting that while Sefton Lib Dem Councillors were now saying Aintree Library should be saved, it was the Liberal Democrats while in control of Sefton Council who suggested the closure of the Aintree Lane library.

Bill said: "There are some Sefton councillors who have been quoted in The Champion to say they oppose the closure. But they have not come up with alternatives. 

"Those same councillors were in charge of the council not so long ago and when they were in charge they made exactly the same proposal to close Aintree library. They seem to have forgotten that they themselves were still suggesting the closure of the library as recently as March when Sefton Council was still a hung council and they were still responsible for its decisions.

"It is easy for opposition councillors to take pot shots at the council but this community needs constructive suggestions. My question to those councillors is, what would you do differently if you were in charge and the government was forcing you to cut £107.5 million from the budget?"

But Bill said the top priority now was to find ways of keeping the library service in Aintree.

The MP added: "The immediate issue is how can this community work together to save the library. The parishes in both Aintree and Melling are keen to do this and there are many community groups in Aintree and Melling who are well organised and who may be able to help. 

"I don’t know whether the parish council can run the existing building or whether volunteers can run the service. I don’t know it the library can be saved if the community here pays for part of the service. The building is not in very good condition like many libraries and it may be that an alternative location would be needed. But we can and we should try to find a way of keeping a library in Aintree.

"I hope that the people here will work with Terry and his colleagues to find alternatives to keep at least some services going.

"I will support efforts to find alternatives. I will also continue to make the case in parliament that these cuts are wrong and that they are causing real problems in communities like Aintree and Melling.

"The threat of a library closure is a blow to people here. But we have a choice. We can find practical ways of supporting this community or we can have a big row about politics which will do nothing t;o help the people who rely on the library."


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 Bill Esterson statement in full:



I would like to thank Terry Baldwin, the chairman of the parish council for reading out this statement.

I am sorry that I am unable to be with you this afternoon, however I will be at the meeting on 9 November. 

The news that the library may close has come as a blow to Melling and Aintree. People have told me how much they value the library. The library means more to this community than a place to borrow books. It is used by young and old alike and is a lifeline for a number of people. For many people it is the place they go to read the paper. For others it is the internet and a place to find information. For some vulnerable people the library is a vital service, the only community facility in Aintree run by Sefton Council. Travelling by public transport to Maghull or Netherton is not straight forward if you live in Aintree. And neither is a 40 minute walk via Switch Island.

Some have been very critical of the council but the fact is that Sefton council faces unprecedented cuts forced on it by the government. Sefton has to take £107.5 million out of its budget. £43m of that has to be cut in the next two years.

The stark reality is that Sefton is in an impossible position. Northern towns and cities are being hit the hardest in these council budget cuts. Some councils in the south haven't had any cuts this year. Some have even had an increase in their budget while Sefton's cuts, for the size of its population, are bigger than almost anywhere else in the country. We can argue about whether the government is right or wrong to cut so much but the fact is that unless government policy changes, in the next few years much deeper cuts will hit councils including Sefton and there will very few services left at all. 

The question is what to do about the closure of the library. We can ask Sefton to reconsider and to find other cuts to balance the budget imposed on them but that would mean cutting something else. Keeping all of the libraries open would mean the council has to find a little under half a million from other services. The fact is that when you have already cut £64.5m from council services in two years, your options for what to cut next become very difficult. 

There are some Sefton councillors who have been quoted in The Champion to say they oppose the closure. But they have not come up with alternatives. Those same councillors were in charge of the council not so long ago and when they were in charge they made exactly the same proposal to close Aintree library. They seem to have forgotten that they themselves were still suggesting the closure of the library as recently as March when Sefton Council was still a hung council and they were still responsible for its decisions.

It is easy for opposition councillors to take pot shots at the council but this community needs constructive suggestions. My question to those councillors is, what would you do differently if you were in charge and the government was forcing you to cut £107.5 million from the budget?

But the immediate issue is how can this community work together to save the library. The parishes in both Aintree and Melling are keen to do this and there are many community groups in Aintree and Melling who are well organised and who may be able to help. I don’t know whether the parish council can run the existing building or whether volunteers can run the service. I don’t know it the library can be saved if the community here pays for part of the service. The building is not in very good condition like many libraries and it may be that an alternative location would be needed. But we can and we should try to find a way of keeping a library in Aintree.

I hope that the people here will work with Terry and his colleagues to find alternatives to keep at least some services going.

I will support efforts to find alternatives. I will also continue to make the case in parliament that these cuts are wrong and that they are causing real problems in communities like Aintree and Melling.

The threat of a library closure is a blow to people here. But we have a choice. We can find practical ways of supporting this community or we can have a big row about politics which will do nothing to help the people who rely on the library.

 

Bill Esterson MP 26 October 2012