Challenge over Library Closure decision from Southport Lib Dem councillors

ots-lib dem library petition 5 southport ots onthespot ots

Challenge over Library Closure decision from Southport Lib Dem councillors

On 18 July, Sefton Council’s Bootle Labour-dominated Cabinet decided to close Ainsdale, Birkdale and Churchtown Libraries.  However the decision is now coming under challenge.

Six Lib Dem Councillors representing the areas most are using a special council procedure to “call in” the decision of the ruling Cabinet.  This means that the matter is due to be reconsidered by the Overview & Scrutiny Committee meeting in Bootle this Wednesday.

The councillors have called in the decision on two main grounds: the first affecting all three threatened libraries while the second relates to concerns over the Council’s controversial proposal to hand over the Birkdale Library building to Sefton CVS.  If Wednesday’s Scrutiny Committee meeting agrees with either of the grounds then the matter will be referred back to the Cabinet to reconsider.

Ainsdale Councillor Haydn Preece, supported by Birkdale’s Cllr Iain Brodie Browne and Churchtown’s Cllr Nigel Ashton, claim that the Cabinet’s decision was ‘unsound’ when they turned down flat proposals from local campaigners to cut annual running costs by £140,000 by running Southport’s three threatened branch libraries with a mixture of Sefton librarians and volunteers.

Cllr Preece explains:  “Our main objection is that Sefton Council asked for the various library campaign groups to submit their final bids by early May.  However the basis on which officers judged the bids were not decided upon until nearly 2 months later, in July. It is a case of moving the goalposts and it is simply unfair.”

Cllr Iain Brodie Browne shares the concerns at how the Council made its decision: “Imagine applying for a job and having to submit an application form before you have been shown the job description or person specification.  We have very real concerns that the Council is laying itself open to legal challenge for not acting fairly and transparently.”

Birkdale Lib Dem councillors Simon Shaw, Richard Hands and Tony Dawson, are presenting arguments why they think the Cabinet was wrong to progress the idea of handing over the Birkdale Library building to a group of charities.

“We believe the decision to progress the idea of the Sefton CVS Consortium being handed the whole Birkdale Library building is unsound.  They propose leaving only a small corner – less than a fifth of the present library – as a continuing, volunteer-run library,” says Cllr Shaw.

“The whole process was clearly stated to be an invitation for ‘Community proposals for the provision of alternative library services.’  How on earth can anyone think that could encompass a proposal involving 80% or more of Birkdale Library being turned over to non-library uses?”

Cllr Shaw points that under the Sefton CVS consortium proposal there would be shelf space for just 12% of the current library stock on display.

“We have carefully checked their plans and it is clear that they only envisage shelf space for around 2,100 books.  Compared to the present 17,500 or so books on the shelves in Birkdale Library at any one time, that is a pittance.  Many local residents see this ‘12% Library’ as an insult,” added Cllr Shaw.

Councillor Iain Brodie Browne, who presented a petition to the July Cabinet meeting opposing the closures, added: “I specifically suggested that Sefton CVS be required to review their business plan for the Birkdale Library, so that up to 50% of the floor space is made available for library use.  Unfortunately the Labour-controlled Cabinet turned down that suggestion, which is why we are asking the Scrutiny Committee to support our call for a rethink.”

 Submit News

Contact us with your community, business or sport news. Phone 07930717137 Email [email protected] Twitter





OTS News