Public Sector Property

07.05.19

Labour deputy calls for government inquiry into council’s planned library closures

The deputy leader of the Labour Party has written to the government calling for an inquiry into Essex County Council’s planned library closures.

The authority plans on “drastically” reducing its services from 74 to 30 in order to make £2m in savings, but the plans have received a large backlash from local campaigners.

A campaign group has written to all of the county’s MPs urging them to pressure the county council to withdraw the controversial plans, and had an impact on the ballot box with the local Conservatives suffering at last week’s local elections.

Now Labour’s Tom Watson has added his voice to the protests, stating the plans “will cause huge social and cultural damage to communities, while saving what is a relatively small sum for the council.”

Writing to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Watson said: “The strength feeling in the community is clear.

“Libraries are community spaces, places where everyone is welcome and supported in achieving their full potential.

“Cutting library services will exacerbate loneliness, disadvantage and digital exclusion, leaving our communities poorer and entrenching inequality.”

He pointed to petitions against the plans which have been signed by more than 50,000 people, and the recent protests involving hundreds of people across Essex.

The deputy leader of Labour said this is why he was asking the government to launch an inquiry into the proposed plans “to ascertain whether these cuts would be a breach of the council’s statutory duty to provide a “comprehensive and efficient” library service.

Essex County Council has said that library use is falling and that a range of groups have expressed interest in running the libraries, and also said a public consultation would be reviewed before any final decision was made.

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