Libraries saved as closure plan is axed

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Protesters from Sefton Park Library, campaigning outside Central Library. Pic by Melissa McFarlane © JMU Journalism

Protesters from Sefton Park Library, campaigning outside Central Library. Pic by Melissa McFarlane © JMU Journalism

Anti-cuts campaigners can celebrate victory today after Mayor Joe Anderson revealed that none of the city’s libaries will be axed – just two days after a protest march against their proposed closure.

Liverpool City Council had wanted to shut 11 of its 19 libraries to save £2.5million a year from its budget, as it is forced to make £156million worth of efficiencies over the next three years in the wake of the Government cuts, but now Mayor Anderson has announced a change of heart.

He said: “We have been working very hard over the last couple of months to secure a future for all 19 libraries in Liverpool. I can confirm today that none of our libraries will close.

“A report will be brought to cabinet identifying all proposals received to date and seeking cabinet approval for our plan to keep all 19 libraries open.”

JMU Journalism Radio’s Hannah Cain talks to Mayor Joe Anderson about the libraries decision

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The decision comes as the council claims to have found alternative uses and funding sources for the libaries with community groups and external partners. Mayor Anderson said: “So far, viable proposals have been received for seven of the 11 libraries and we are continuing to plan the future of the remainder.”

The libraries at risk were: Breck Road, Dovecot, Fazakerley, Kensington, Lee Valley, Old Swan, Sefton Park, Spellow, Walton, Wavertree and West Derby.

On Saturday, around 100 campaigners took to the streets of the city centre in a protest against the original plans to close more than half of the public libraries across Liverpool.

Protesters marching through the city centre against library closure plans. Pic by Melissa McFarlane © JMU Journalism

Protesters marching through the city centre against library closure plans. Pic by Melissa McFarlane © JMU Journalism

Mayoral lead for Reading Performance, Councillor Lana Orr, told JMU Journalism: “Today, the Mayor’s announcement on libraries shows just how much we care about access to books and reading. By working with other organisations and communities a solution has been found. This is wonderful news.”

Last week, a petition of 15,000 signatures to keep the local libraries open was handed to city chiefs and the campaign leaders believed they had gained around 500 more signed up in the few hours they were protesting on Saturday.

Martin Ralph, of the Old Swan Against Cuts protest group, told JMU Journalism: “Joe Anderson now says 11 libraries will not close and he has ‘found’ some money – perhaps £680,000 – to keep some libraries as they are. But others may be sold or run with volunteers.

“We have always rejected privatisation or  libraries run by volunteers. We forced the changes and that is a victory, but it is a concession not a retraction or a complete U-turn.”

Additional reporting by Hannah Cain, Matthew Judge & Megan Hill