Proposals to close Ore’s library ‘outrageous’

Seven libraries could close across East Sussex
Seven libraries could close across East Sussex

Ore’s public library could be closed permanently 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 Langney, Pevensey Bay, Willingdon, Polegate, Ore, Mayfield, and Ringmer.

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.

Richard Street, a Labour borough councillor for Ore, said: “The proposal to close Ore library is outrageous. Libraries are vital for young children without access to books at home because their parents just can’t afford them.

“The suggestion that the residents of Down Farm and Broomgrove can catch a bus and travel to Hollington or Hastings Town Centre libraries is ridiculous.

“Many of them don’t have cars and can’t afford the bus fare. In fact, it is often cheaper to buy a book on Amazon than to buy a bus ticket from Down Farm to the Town Centre.

“The library is also a vital resource for older people. So many services are only available online and many residents don’t own computers so the library allows them to connect with these services.

“This is an appalling attack on our poorest communities forced on East Sussex County Council by the government and I will be doing everything I can with local residents to force them to drop this proposal.”

Labour county councillor Godfrey Daniel (Lab, Hastings - Braybrooke and Castle) said: “It’s very sad to see these library closures which are a direct result of the Conservative Government cuts to local government finances in the cause of so-called ‘austerity’.

“In May this year the people in Baird and Ore voted for a Conservative County Councillor and this is the reward they get from the Conservatives at the County Council.

“Ore will be the poorer without its library provision.

He added: “Truly the loss of these libraries will be felt far and wide – local communities deserve better!”

Meanwhile Phil Scott (Lab, Hastings - Hollington and Wishing Tree) added: “I’m afraid ‘despicable’ springs to mind, why take resources out of areas that are deprived, resources should be put in to support those that are old and vulnerable and may have mobility problems, once again Hastings is targeted by an uncaring, unsympathetic Tory administration.”

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.