Ainsdale’s big turnout against library closure plan (Southport)

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Ainsdale Methodist Church Hall had hardly a seat spare at lunchtime on Saturday for a meeting to discuss opposing the planned closure of Ainsdale Library. The meeting was called by Friends of Ainsdale Library (FOAL).

The meeting of almost 200 people was chaired by FOAL chair Melanie Horridge (pictured).

FOAL member Councillor Haydn Preece called for everyone of whatever political persuasion to unite behind the campaign and get involved.

The Library was vital to the community of Ainsdale. He urged every single person to write to the councillors who were making the proposal to close the Library to help to change their minds. He also questioned how closing libraries down squared with the Government’s promises to tackle literacy problems.

Chris Collier from FOAL explained maps on slides emphasising how Ainsdale would suffer more from the Sefton Cabinet’s proposals than would any other residents of Sefton Borough. The whole village was more than two miles from any other Library which would be left open if the Cabinet had their way and parts of Ainsdale would be over three miles away from any of the Libraries which would be left.

Councillor Ted Hartill pointed out that the extra distance that Ainsdale residents would have to travel was actually far more than 3 miles because the Council’s maps only showed the distances ‘as the crow flies’. Because of the road layout, for some Ainsdale residents the true distance under the Sefton Cabinet’s proposals would be more than five miles. He had put these points to the Leader and Chief Executive of the Council. It was totally unacceptable. Cllr Hartill felt that if the numbers of cars using Southport beach was restored to previous numbers, the extra income could be used to keep local libraries open.

Pauline Collier from FOAL explained the impact of the Ainsdale Library closure proposal from an Equalities point of view.

She felt that the claim in the Sefton officers’ report that the impact of the proposal on equalities was neutral was completely wrong. She explained how the combination of requirements to use public transport and time constraints would make it virtually impossible for mothers of young children to take their children to Southport or Formby Libraries after school as they were doing now with Ainsdale Library. Access problems would make it immensely difficult for many elderly people and others with disabilities to use other libraries if Ainsdale library was closed down. Price pressures of public transport would also make it hard for teenagers from poorer households to access reference sources for projects and homework. She felt the Cabinet’s proposals might be contravening the Equality Act.

Councillor Terry Jones told the meeting that contrary to what some people had been saying, he was not against keeping Ainsdale Library open. He had voted the way he had in Sefton Council’s committee because he felt the procedures used by the Cabinet in making their decision were correct.

Shoreside Primary School Head teacher David Thomas explained to the meeting the closeness with which the school worked with the Ainsdale Library. This could not be done at all if the Library was closed.

The meeting was addressed briefly by members of the campaign to save Aintree Library. The two gentlemen criticised the unfairness of the proposals which had been proposed by Bootle Labour councillors and had hit outlying areas worst. They suggested other ways to save the cash needed to keep the libraries open such as cutting the number of councillors on Sefton Council and closing down Waterloo Town Hall .

Councillor Tony Dawson and Terry Durrance from the Birkdale Library Action Group also attended the meeting to express solidarity with the Ainsdale campaign. Councillor Dawson thanked the FOAL chair Melanie Horridge for coming to the previous Birkdale Library meeting. He said that all the Southport library campaigns should support one another and suggested that the residents who wanted to save libraries should target their attentions on the councillors of Sefton Central since unlike the Bootle Cabinet members, these councillors had not yet voted to close any libraries.

After many contributions and questions answered the meeting ended with a call for volunteers. Pauline Collier explained the level of commitment which volunteers would need if they were to play a part in keeping down the costs of Ainsdale library.

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