Newcastle’s Labour MP Paul Farrelly has pledged his support for residents protesting at plans by Staffordshire County Council to hand over the running of their village library to community volunteers.
The County Council is conducting a 12-week consultation exercise into the future of library services across Staffordshire and residents fear the review could lead to the eventual closure of smaller libraries, such as Silverdale’s.
Local resident Joan Price took just two days to collect more than 500 names on a petition, which she handed over to Mr Farrelly, calling on the County Council to maintain its funding for the library.
Mr Farrelly said he understood residents’ fears particularly because the County had reneged on an assurance given less than two years ago to his Parliamentary Select Committee promising that the library service would be safeguarded from closures.
“How can residents have trust and confidence in an organisation that has behaved in such an underhand manner? Local people have become very wary whenever the County Council announces that it is carrying out a consultation exercise. Invariably these exercises become the precursor for cuts and closures,” Mr Farrelly warned.
“The library is part of the life of Silverdale and I will be writing again to the County urging them to protect the funding to ensure its survival, along with the libraries at Knutton and Audley,” he said. “Coming on top of cuts to youth services and day care centres, the County seems hell-bent on pursuing a drastic cost-cutting agenda that is putting austerity ahead of local needs.”
While welcoming the County’s decision to safeguard the libraries at Clayton and Newcastle, Mr Farrelly said he was concerned that the local communities in Silverdale, Knutton and Audley were being discriminated against because of plans to leave these village libraries in the hands of volunteers and the local Parish Councils.
“Where this has happened around the country, not only have professional librarians lost their jobs, but there are concerns that too much is being asked of local volunteers. I have therefore asked the Minister responsible for a report on what has happened in practice over the last few years, to see whether libraries hived off in this way have indeed withered and died, as many people fear.”
Mr Farrelly is pictured outside Silverdale Library with Knutton & Silverdale Labour Councillor Tony Eagles receiving the petition from local resident Mrs Joan Price