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AXMINSTER: Town’s growth ‘will protect the library’
Tuesday, 22 April 2014
RESIDENTS URGED TO TAKE PART IN CONSULTATION
Axminster’s growth is the strongest weapon in the fight to save the town’s library from downgrading or closure, according to town councillors. Concerned members of the public are urged to take part in the ongoing consultation exercise and show their support by attending a public drop-in session at the library early next month. Devon County Council (DCC) has proposed to effectively make a string of libraries, including Axminster, second-tier, volunteer-led facilities as part of a £1.5 million cost-cutting exercise. DCC recently announced plans to develop a number of current libraries into what is known as “Devon Centres offering a broader range of services”. But Axminster Library is not on the list, instead being among 28 smaller libraries for which the future is unclear. A DCC spokesperson said: “Libraries serving smaller communities fall within a proposal to encourage and support communities to come forward with ideas on how the service could be sustained in future. “The council has no single model in mind, recognising that Devon’s towns and villages are very different.” Devon County Council has stressed it does “not intend for the library to close”, but town, district and county councillor Andrew Moulding told Axminster Town Council: “If we don’t come up with an idea, the worst might happen.” He said that visitor numbers were down almost 30 per cent over a five-year period, but added: “Our best case is the growth of the town. “We have to convince people that our numbers are going up.” Mayor Jeremy Walden agreed wholeheartedly, saying: “The houses are being built as we speak.” But he had previously warned fellow councillors about library usage statistics, saying: “The figures must be read with an understanding of what is behind them, including opening hours.” Axminster Library is currently open 17 hours a week spread over four days. Mayor Walden had previously told Pulman’s View: “My personal thought is that it would be a backward step to get rid of highly trained and valuable staff. “I personally strongly oppose the proposal.” During the town council meeting, it was announced that DCC would hold a drop-in session at the library from 10am-12noon on Thursday May 1st as part of the consultation process. Everyone concerned about the closure was urged to attend as well as individually completing the consultation questionnaire. Councillor Paul Hayward emphasised the importance by saying: “Everyone needs to fill in that questionnaire.” The town council’s formal consultation response will be agreed during the May meeting. When asked how much it costs to run the library a year at current opening levels, a DCC spokesperson told Pulman’s View: “Around £43,000.” The figure includes a number of posts including minor repairs, rates, gas, electricity, water, cleaning, grounds maintenance, fixtures, fittings, pay and NI. Certain costs including book stock, ICT connectivity, buildings maintenance, logistics and stock staff, management and admin support are accounted for centrally. Copies of the consultation questionnaire are available from the library and online at www.toughchoices.co.uk
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