A packed Annual General meeting of the Southport Liberal Democrats held at St Lukes Church Hall this week has unanimously backed the campaign to save all three of the town’s branch libraries.

Moving the motion to support the three campaigns, Dukes Ward councillor Tony Dawson pointed out that the proposal from the Bootle Labour Cabinet was to close three out of Southport’s four libraries and keep twice the library provision in Bootle even though Bootle residents used libraries far less than Southport residents do.  The proposal discriminated massively against the people of Southport: Thousands of Ainsdale and Crossens residents would have to walk more than two miles to a library while virtually nobody in the Labour-held wards of Bootle and Sefton Central would have to do so.

Cllr Dawson made clear that, contrary to some propaganda, decisions HAD been made.  The decision to close three out of four Southport libraries had been made by the Bootle Labour Cabinet as their preferred proposal. Choosing that proposal, rather than another idea, meant they had rejected the idea of trying to keep other libraries open. Council officers had confirmed at the Southport Area Committee meeting that this decision HAD been made but also that it was not at ‘tablet of stone’.  The process of consultation meant that the Cabinet should be open to having their minds changed if convincing fresh information came forward.  The problem was that they clearly wanted to use library closures to make nearly half a million pounds of cuts in the Council’s budget and had refused to propose an option for consultation which would involve the use of volunteers or co-location of some libraries. That is why he had proposed, at the Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee, that the Cabinet should be asked to ‘think again’ as they had been asked to by Lib Dem councillors from the three campaign groups. Unfortunately, Labour Councillors and Ainsdale Tory councillor Terry Jones had voted that they were “not concerned” at the way the closure proposal had come forward and did not want the Cabinet to think again before pushing forward with their proposal.

It was clear that two out of three Ainsdale Councillors were “concerned” at the Labour library closure proposal which had been made. Councillor Ted Hartill had spoken at the Southport Area Committee this week to say that the distance Ainsdale residents would have to travel to get to a library in the proposals, which was over three miles for some, was “completely unacceptable” and Councillor Haydn Preece was an active member of Friends of Ainsdale Library which had already collected thousands of petitions signatures in support of the Ainsdale Library.

Birkdale Councillor Ian Brodie Browne told the meeting that  what differentiated the Lib Dems from the Labour/Tory parties on Sefton Council was that the Lib Dems wanted the Council to issue a consultation on how to keep the Libraries open, with support and research by Council officers into ways that this had been done elsewhere and could be done locally.  The Labour and Conservative Council groups were happy to put out a proposal to close more than half the libraries and leave it to ordinary residents to try to work out better ideas which they might or might not accept.

Councillors Marianne Welsh and Nigel Ashton spoke passionately about the vital role which Churchtown Library played, not just as a reading and learning centre but helping to counter social isolation. Ainsdale WardCouncillorr Haydn Preece praised the work of the Friends of Ainsdale library who had now been campaigning against their library closure for six weeks and had collected thousands of petition signatures.

A successful election year was reported within Southport with every single person in the town of Southport now having Liberal Democrat representation at Council, Parliamentary and European levels, something which had never happened before at any time in history.

Officers elected to serve from January 2013 were:

Hon President: Michael Ascot Chair:  Cllr Sue McGuire Vice Chair: Cllr Tony Dawson Secretary: May Hamilton Treasurer: Barbara Moss Membership Secretary: David Pullin

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