Motion criticising plan for county libraries is backed by Uttlesford district councillors

Councillor Barbara Light proposed the original motion along with Councillor Geoffrey Sell.

Councillor Barbara Light proposed the original motion along with Councillor Geoffrey Sell. - Credit: Archant

Uttlesford district councillors backed a motion to condemn part of the county council’s future plans for libraries.

One councillor accused Essex County Council (ECC) of 'dumping' libraries on volunteers through its new five-year strategy, which will see community run libraries created, with a limited amount of support.

The motion, which was passed on July 30 by full council, with an amendment by Councillor Melvin Caton, said: "This council condemns the actions of ECC with regards to the current strategy of overreliance on volunteers to run our libraries and short term and insufficient funding. Council is concerned that this may lead to their eventual closure. and resolves to demand that all libraries in Uttlesford get continued access to Essex Library service computer and management systems, inter-library lending and stock rotation and core paid staff for the foreseeable future and to work with ECC, parish councils and the wider Uttlesford community to achieve this goal"

Last month, ECC backtracked on proposals which would have seen 25 libraries in the county close, including Thaxted and Stansted, instead announcing that no libraries would close for five years.

District councillor Barbara Light, who proposed the original motion along with Councillor Geoffrey Sell, said: "What is clear is that having been forced to do a u-turn on cutting and closing Uttlesford libraries, ECC is now trying to do it by the back door. Their new strategy is to dump libraries on volunteers. It shows they can't be trusted."

Cllr Light added: "Our libraries are a vital part of our local communities and ECC has a legal obligation to provide them. Uttlesford residents send ECC more than £40m a year in Council Tax to deliver our services, but today we only get two-thirds of our fair share of the library budget back."

In the new ECC library strategy, approvedt on July 23, the council says that by 2024 it hopes that: "Essex residents and community groups are much more involved, with many libraries run by or run jointly with community groups/partners and volunteers".

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The strategy also notes: "The council will offer a support package to organisations wishing to take over delivery of library services. This includes grant funding over three years, an initial donation of books, quarterly refresh of reading materials and support to community-run library groups to train volunteers."

The motion to condemn the county council library plan was passed with 31 votes for, two against and one abstention.