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Union says Southend Council ibrary consultation just a smokescreen for cuts
12:50pm Friday 2nd November 2012 in News
A UNION has accused Southend Council of launching a review into the future of the borough’s libraries as a smokescreen for reducing the service to save money.
The council is currently reviewing its library services and users are being asked to fill in questionnaires on what changes they would like to see. But with the council looking to make budget cuts, Southend Unison says the review launched last month (oct) may be used “as a cover to make drastic cuts or even close libraries”.
Claire Wormald, secretary of Southend UNISON Local Government Branch, which represents workers in the library service, said: “Libraries are an important free service open to the entire community. That’s why we are urging all residents to stand up for Southend libraries by taking part in Southend Council’s public consultation and firmly state that they will not accept reductions in opening times, staffing levels, or the resources used to provide this key service.
“Cutting library services will be yet another false economy that will store up problems for the future.”
The council, along with the University of Essex and South Essex College, will open a new £30million main town library in Elmer Square next August. The borough has a total of seven libraries but there have been fears over the future of some like Westcliff library.
Nevertheless, Derek Jarvis, Southend councillor responsible for culture, said the union was wrong to question the motives for the consultation and the service now needed to account of increased use of new technology.
He said: “They are overeacting because it has been made absolutely clear we have no preconceived ideas on what users will recommend that we do.
“It’s quite a few years since we have reviewed the service and it’s happening all over the country because of the changing needs of users and also those who don’t use the service. We want to find out what they would like to see.”
Mr Jarvis said the three-month consultation would be in two phases, with the first finding out what people want and the second digesting the findings.
He added: “We will then come up with views as a result of the consultation but it will be an all-party discussion so it’s not political. Following that there will be another three-months public consultation so it is not being rushed and we are keeping a very open mind on it.”
The consultation ends on January 6 2013. Unison is encouraging library users to play a full part in the consultation to support the service.