Labour Backs Cross-Party Campaign Against Library Closures

Saffron Walden Labour Party supported the demonstration outside Saffron Walden Library on 2 February, alongside the Liberal Democrats and the Residents for Uttlesford parties.

Saffron Walden town spokesperson Simon Trimnell said: “The Labour Party will always be open to working with others to defend our hard-won public services from attack. Opposition parties in Uttlesford are united in opposing these Tory cuts. The Labour party will continue to fight ideologically motivated austerity at all levels of government. It is a sad day when politicians working together a cross party lines for the common good is viewed as a source of suspicion.

“We support keeping all libraries open as a community resource for the young, the old, the poor and needy from the lonely pensioner seeking some relief to the parents with children who want to open their children’s’ minds through reading.”

Research based on freedom of information requests by the local Labour Party shows that libraries that have sustained cuts in opening hours and book stock have seen large decreases in usage and loans.

Until 2011, loans and active membership remained stable. In 2011/12, there was a 14% cut in opening hours across the county’s library service, which led to a 19% drop in book loans over the following two years. In 2014-16, the number of books held by Essex libraries was cut by 11% and this led to a similar decline in library loans and membership.

Libraries that did not see cuts in hours and book stock saw no decline and, in some cases, witnessed growth in use in recent years. In Great Dunmow, which saw the opening of a new library building in the centre of town, the number of active users rose 48% to 4,319 between 2008/09 and 2017/18. Over the same period, opening hours increased from 29 hours per week to 50 hours per week and the book stock increased by 4%. Yet, despite its success, Dunmow’s library is seeing its hours cut as it is downgraded to a Tier 2 library.

At Saffron Walden library, hours were cut by 21% from 61 to 48 hours per week with the popular Sunday opening times ended and earlier closing times during the week. Loans fell by the same amount over the following two years.

Saffron Walden Labour Party believes that further cuts to Saffron Walden town library’s opening hours will lead to a downward spiral of cuts with potential closure in 2024, when Essex County Council says that most of the libraries not closed this year will be moved to shared accommodation. The Corn Exchange could be sold off by the council and turned into yet another chain restaurant.

Click here to complete Essex County Council’s library survey.