Library closures not the end of the story, vow protesters
The final chapter in the Lancashire libraries saga will be written tonight when six shut their doors for the last time.
But defiant campaigners are adamant it will not be the end of the story for more than 20 communities being robbed of a valuable reading resource.
“It doesn’t stop here,” said Jane Porter, who has been battling to save Fulwood Library since closure plans were first announced.
“We are not giving up the fight - in fact we still have quite a bit of hope.”
Fulwood is one of the first six to shut up shop tonight - the others are Penwortham, Bamber Bridge, Freckleton, Lytham and Thornton.
The next batch, including Lostock Hall and Adlington, will follow by the end of November.
But the “Save Our Libraries” campaigners are pinning their hopes on Government intervention after one Lancashire MP took the case to Culture Minister Karen Bradley in Westminster.
Ben Wallace, MP for Wyre and North Preston, declared he was “very angry” at the County Hall cull of libraries and has now referred the matter to the Secretary of State.
“I am trying as hard as I can to persuade the Minister to make the County Council stop their plans,” he said. “Like residents I feel very angry about the Council’s actions.
“I have written urging the Minister to investigate the County Council’s position as the statutory provider of library services.”
Campaigns have been launched across Lancashire to prevent the axe falling on the 21 libraries earmarked for closure.
Fulwood has seen one of the most vigorous protests, with a petition signed by almost 4,000 people given to County Hall.
“It has all been very rushed,” said Jane Porter. “The council cabinet only voted to reject a challenge to the closures on Monday and here we are, on Friday, ready to watch as our library is shut down.
“I feel very sorry for the staff at all the libraries. At Fulwood they were still stamping books out for three weeks earlier this week.
“It’s very sad. But this isn’t the last the County County have heard from us. And we have been in touch with about 10 other groups across the county who feel the same.
“The Secretary of State is going to have quite a queue of MPs outside her door asking her to intervene. These closures are going to hit communities really hard. Many residents will now have a long way to travel to visit their nearest library. We are confident the Secretary of State is going to see sense and order LCC to reverse this terrible decision.”
l Five museums in Lancashire also close their doors today - but County Hall insists they are only being “mothballed.”
The Museum of Lancashire in Preston, the Judges’ Lodgings in Lancaster, Fleetwood Museum, Queen Street Mill Textile Museum in Burnley and the Helmshore Mills Textile Museum in Rossendale could remain shut until at least the New Year while talks go on transfer them to new operators.
Coun Marcus Johnstone, cabinet member for environment, planning and cultural services, said: “This is extremely good news for the future of these museums. There is obviously still a lot of work to do, but it is very encouraging to see such robust and well thought through business plans.
“In an ideal world we would not have been forced into this position. But, as we no longer have the funding to keep these cultural resources open, we can at least do a thorough job to ensure that they have a sustainable future.”
As negotiations are still under way, the county council has declined to name the organisations involved.
A council spokeswoman said: “Care and maintenance plans will be put in place to ensure that they are looked after, preserved properly, and kept safe and secure.
“The intention is that negotiations are concluded as soon as possible with a view to the transfers being made by 31 December 2016.”