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Rallying call to save Beccles library

PUBLISHED: 08:00 22 April 2011

A FINAL rallying call has gone out to back Beccles library as the deadline for submissions of support looms closer.

Residents have been urged to show their strength of feeling for the library as Suffolk County Council is carrying out a consultation exercise into the future of the county’s library service.

There was a glimmer of hope this week for the libraries following the news that Mark Bee had been voted leader of Suffolk County Council. Mr Bee, from Beccles, immediately pledged to save school crossing patrols and slow down the divestment of waste sites and libraries.

The county council is proposing to transfer the running of 29 of the authority’s 44 libraries to local councils, businesses, community and voluntary groups in a bid to slash the library budget by 30pc.

Beccles library is one of 15 identified as a proposed “county” library by the council, meaning it is likely to have a future in the town.

But concerns have been mounting over what will be on offer, and last month a rally was held at the library in Blyburgate as people tried to make their voices heard.

Now Beccles Town Council has sent a letter to culture secretary Jeremy Hunt asking for his “assistance and advice” over concerns for the future of the library.

The letter, signed by Beccles mayor Brian Taylor, states: “One of the current concerns of the town relating to financial cuts is the possible closure of our town library. The library is a thriving centre, which received significant funds for structural and facility improvements over the past few years. It serves an area of some 20,000 people and has a wonderful and expanding children’s section and a much-used IT centre.

“Suffolk County Council has listed it for potential closure as part of their cutbacks in services (along with the town’s waste site, youth club and old people’s home and day respite centre) – all ‘front-line services’.”

Mr Taylor suggests that if the town’s library were to be closed this could be a breach of the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964.

He writes: “We note that the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 sets out a statutory duty for all local authorities to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service, set in the context of local needs: that is, specifically of those who live, work and study in the local area.

“We believe that to close our town library on the basis of saving money would be a breach of the 1964 Act. Your assistance and advice in this matter would be most appreciated.”

Stephen Amer, Beccles library manager, said there is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the consultation and urged people to support the town’s library, along with others affected.

Suffolk County Council’s library consultation ends next Saturday.

To have your say visit www.suffolk.gov.uk/CouncilAndDemocracy/Consultations/LibrariesConsultation2011.htm

New leader for county council – Page 5

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