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Labour MP Calls for Long-Term Library Solution

To ensure a representative submission to Bristol City Council, Bristol North West’s Labour MP, Darren Jones, held a Libraries Conference on 2nd September to bring together local councillors, campaign groups and representative of the area’s nine Libraries.

 

Darren’s response to the consultation

 

Commenting after the meeting, and the submission of a formal response to Bristol City Council, Darren said:

 

“Whilst I understand the council is being forced to make hugely difficult choices because of the reducing grant funding from government, I am deeply concerned about the potential impact of multiple library closures in Bristol North West. I wanted to take a constituency-wide view of library provision without forcing different communities against each other. All parties must also recognise the different shades of “community need”: income and education deprivation being key, but also communities of older people who use libraries as their main source of online access or as a community facility for socialising”.

 

Darren continued “I am calling for a long-term view on the impact of library closures. Many, for example, have excellent internet infrastructure and accessible entrances already and one has swipe card access. These also provide opportunities to improve them as hubs for digital inclusion and co-location of other services, such as paying council tax. And in some communities, the local library is the last remaining community asset. Whilst understanding the pressure on the council, taking short-term decisions to balance the budget quickly, whilst imperative, risks clouding a vision for reform and innovation. And taking decisions based on visitor numbers alone risks failing communities who need access to public services the most.”

 

Darren added “In my view, libraries need to be reformed and modernised by working with new partners, not closed. I have asked that where quick decisions must be made, the council prevents the immediate sale of library buildings to give all parties time to find and work with new partners to take them over. I know the council is endeavouring to create a space where this is possible. The loss of these community assets will have a higher indirect cost on communities in my constituency. And due to land values in Bristol, I’d be surprised if we’d ever be able to re-purchase sites in the future. A long-term view needs to be taken that has communities at its heart”.

 

Bristol City Council’s current ‘Your Neighbourhood’ consultation, which has now closed, sought views on how the council could save a further £1.4m, over the next two years, from the existing Library budget of £4.29m. The consultation asked for preference against three options. In all three of the proposed options, multiple Libraries across Bristol North West (Avonmouth, Horfield, Lockleaze, Shirehampton and Westbury) are tabled for closure, in two of the three options Sea Mills Library is also listed, with Henleaze Library listed in one of the options.

 

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