6th July Press Release - Big names fail to melt hearts.
Despite pleas from two of Dorset’s top Conservatives, the cabinet of Dorset County Council is still hoping to close the county’s smallest libraries.
Earlier this week Oliver Letwin, MP for West Dorset, and Julian Fellowes, the Oscar-winning script writer, backed the campaign being run by Ad Lib to save all 34 libraries in Dorset. But the council’s leaders made it clear at a meeting at County Hall today [eds: Wednesday 6 July] that they still want to cut off the funding for nine libraries next year.
‘It’s true that they also allowed the call for all libraries to be saved,’ says Tim Lee, the acting chairman of Ad Lib (the Association of the Friends of Dorset Libraries), ‘to go forward to be considered by all 45 councillors at their meeting on 21 July. But they made clear where their hearts lie. They seemed quite unmoved by the high profile support for saving our smallest libraries ─ indeed the names Letwin and Fellowes were not mentioned by any cabinet member today.
‘Despite this there is still the chance for fair-minded councillors to back the preservation of these predominantly rural libraries. After all, a group of their own members spent six months weighing up the best way to make the savings the council needs to find and they recommended keeping libraries open as the best use of council taxpayers’ money.’
Tim explains that it is the county’s library bosses who want the nine libraries to be abandoned. They claim, he says, that it would be unsustainable for Dorset to try to retain them all.
‘We are astounded,’ declares Tim Lee, chairman of Stalbridge library friends, ‘that the unelected library officials should keep pushing their own policy when it runs counter to the conclusions of the councillors who have spent so long weighing up all the options. ‘We are, of course, delighted that the cabinet added West Moors to the list of libraries that will be fully funded by the council. But we are worried that its political bosses will try to twist the arms of their supporters in the majority party to get them to vote for the closure plan.
‘Many Conservative councillors have told us how unhappy they are about losing libraries that are so vital to village communities,’ says Tim. ‘So we are asking all our supporters to do all they can to ensure that councillors are allowed to follow their consciences in the crucial vote in two weeks’ time. There must be a free vote on such an important issue.’
The savings being advocated by Ad Lib would reduce the amount the library service spends on books and running costs.
- The libraries the library service wants to close are: Burton Bradstock, Charmouth, Chickerell, Colehill, Corfe Castle, Portland Underhill, Puddletown, Stalbridge and Wool.
- Libraries that it would now preserve: Beaminster, Corfe Mullen, Crossways, Littlemoor, Lyme Regis, Lytchett Matravers, Portland Tophill, Sturminster Newton, Upton, Westmoors and Wyke Regis.
- Libraries already ‘saved’: Blandford, Bridport, Christchurch, Dorchester, Ferndown, Gillingham, Highcliffe, Shaftesbury, Sherborne, Swanage, Verwood, Wareham, Weymouth and Wimborne.