Lewes MP ‘disappointed’ by proposed library closures

Maria Caulfield MP, pictured in the House of Commons
Maria Caulfield MP, pictured in the House of Commons

Lewes’ MP has expressed ‘disappointment’ at proposals to close libraries in Ringmer and Polegate by the county council.

East Sussex County Council’s cabinet will be asked to approve a consultation on the library service’s strategic commissioning strategy – which includes shutting seven of 24 libraries – when it meets on Tuesday, September 19.

The seven locations earmarked for closure are Polegate, Ringmer, Mayfield, Langney, Pevensey Bay, Willingdon, and Ore.

According to the council the proposals are aimed at targeting ‘increasingly limited resources to areas where they will have the greatest impact on improving residents’ lives’, as the number of people using East Sussex libraries has fallen by 40 per cent in the last decade.

Lewes MP Maria Caulfield said: “I am very disappointed that there are plans to close the libraries in Ringmer and Polegate.

“The community in Ringmer only recently re opened their new library facility in the village hall and so to close this would be a huge loss to the community.

“I have already contacted those involved in Ringmer library and the town council in Polegate to see if there is a way we can work together to keep library services going. While I know that the numbers of people using library services overall has dropped, they are a valuable community service and I have been reassured by the county council that if we can look at innovative ways of providing the services locally they will support the community in doing so.

“I would urge the county councillors of both areas to stand up for their local areas and work with me on this to protect these vital services.”

An officers’ report claims 100 per cent of library members at the seven locations due to be closed live within a 20 minute journey time by car to the other 17 libraries, and more than 96 per cent live within a 30 minute journey time by public transport.

The mobile library service could also be axed, with additional support provided instead to those unable to travel to a library through the Home Library Service.

Meanwhile, a new community library card would be available, allowing the borrowing of a large number of books which could be made available to the community in venues such as village halls or community centres.

Nick Skelton, the county council’s assistant director for communities, said: “The need for significant savings, due to cuts in funding from central government, has left us with no option but to review how our library service is delivered.

“It is vital we focus our resources where they will make the biggest difference, through services which help children to learn to read and write and adults to find jobs and learn digital skills.”

He added: “The proposal to close libraries and no longer run the mobile library is not one that we make lightly.

“With reductions in funding and changes to how the service is being used, we feel this is the best way to ensure we continue to offer a comprehensive service across the whole county and play our part in improving the lives of our residents.”

The proposed network of 17 libraries would focus on areas of higher need, while reflecting the decline in demand for library visits and loans, but would continue to provide a comprehensive, accessible library service.

Mr Skelton said: “While the county’s libraries remain popular, there are far fewer visits today than there were a decade ago, while at the same time the use of elibrary has increased.

“These proposals would allow us to expand the services and materials available online.”

Should cabinet approve a consultation into the proposals, which would save the authority £653,000, library users and those who do not currently use the service will be encouraged to comment in the consultation, which would run for 12 weeks from September to December.

What do you think? Email the newsdesk.