Bungay Library under threat

PEOPLE in Bungay have reacted with dismay after learning the town’s library faces closure if voluntary and community groups do not step forward to run it.

Book lovers across Waveney could see their libraries closed as Suffolk County Council tries to slash 30pc from its books’ budget.

But hopes are growing that some of the libraries and their shelves of books could be saved from the axe if groups come forward to take them over.

This week, Suffolk County Council launched a three-month consultation to see if community and voluntary groups and parish and town councils can take over 29 out of 44 of its libraries. Bungay is on the Waveney hit list alongside libraries in Oulton Broad, Kessingland and Southwold.

County council leaders say the community take over plan is necessary as a cut in government funding means the authority must slash 30pc from its annual �9m library budget over the next three years, making a saving of around �2.4m.

The announcement has led to a call to arms from the communities affected, for volunteers to step into the breach to ensure their libraries survive any county-wide cull.

Betty Warnes, former Bungay mayor and leader of the evening Good Read group at Bungay Library, said it would be “disastrous” if the town were to lose the facility.

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She added: “ The actual building does not belong to Suffolk. It was given by a benefactress to the town, Kathleen Bowerbank. It was only opened in 1992 and it is a beautiful building.

“Apart from the books there are meetings for craft and sewing groups and I think there are eight reading groups that run from it. In Bungay we have got quite a lot of old people’s homes and there are services that go out from the library to the old people’s homes.

“The civic award this year was won by a group of library helpers who go out and take books to old people. I think libraries are one of the wonderful things to have come out of the welfare state that are completely free unless you go overdue. I realise there have got to be these cuts. Maybe libraries are one of those things the big society can wade in to continue. It would be terrible for Bungay to lose it.”

Bungay mayor Simon Woods said he was shocked and disappointed when he heard the news. “I do not think there is adequate appreciation of how important the library is to Bungay,” he said. “It is very strongly used by the whole community and particularly the elderly. We will do everything we can to make sure the library is kept open. It is a very valuable facility.

“The idea of Bungay being served by either Halesworth or Beccles, to me, is a non-starter.”

County Councillor Judy Terry, cabinet member in charge of the libraries consultation, said: “Should responses to the consultation prove disappointing, it is imperative we make the necessary savings, meaning we may have to close 29 libraries.”

l The Have Your Say on the Future of Suffolk Libraries can be read and completed by visiting www.suffolk.gov.uk/librariesconsultation2011 Copies are available from libraries.