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Philip Evans


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AXMINSTER: Guildhall packed for library protest

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

PACKED?HOUSE: The Guildhall was full to capacity when the library consultation process took place at the town council meeting on Monday of last week

PACKED?HOUSE: The Guildhall was full to capacity when the library consultation process took place at the town council meeting on Monday of last week

County council chiefs say that Axminster Library’s limited space is a major reason why a downgrade is proposed. But a massive Guildhall crowd was not impressed and put Devon County Council (DCC) head of libraries Ciara Eastell and county councillor and library portfolio holder Roger Croad under sustained pressure at a town council meeting on Monday of last week. Devon County Council has proposed to effectively make a string of libraries, including Axminster, second-tier and volunteer-led facilities as part of a £1.5 million cost-cutting exercise. The library chiefs visited a town council meeting as part of the ongoing consultation exercise. Town councillors unanimously demanded a rethink, saying the recommendation to downgrade was based on “cursory and incorrect statistics”. A downgrade would mean the loss of professional librarians, which town councillors said would be “unacceptable”. Library supporters claim the statistics used by DCC don’t consider a cut in opening hours, and they also say that a growing town like Axminster, if anything, needs a library with longer opening hours. In addition, local campaign group Support for Axminster Library used DCC data to to produce a string of statistics presenting Axminster Library in a considerably better light than DCC’s consultation pack did The statistics were presented by campaign group member Jo Hawkins prompting Councillor Croad to say: “I won’t argue with your figures.” Hold fire But he also said the library service was changing and needed to accommodate other DCC services, for which there was no room in Axminster. The general consensus appeared to be that Axminster residents would be quite happy without the extra services as long as the library remains as it was. Town, district and county councillor Andrew Moulding offered a potential way forward and asked library chiefs to hold fire until this had been explored. Axminster was in the process of developing a Neigbourhood Plan. Parishes with a neighbourhood plan would receive 25 per cent of any community infrastructure levy arising from developments in their area, and councillor Moulding believed this money could be used to help finance the library. The consultation will run until July 17th, and a definitive set of proposals will go before the county council’s Cabinet in September. Apart from FaceBook, support for Axminster Library also has a Twitter account named Support 4 Ax Library.


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