‘North-south divide’ in library cuts

Cllr Llew Monger outside Winslow Library
Cllr Llew Monger outside Winslow Library

CUTS to library services are a symptom of the growing north-south divide in Bucks, according to a county councillor.

Under plans being considered by Bucks County Council 14 libraries will have to be taken over by the community or risk being closed down.

Of the nine libraries left open, seven will be in the south of the county.

Buckingham library will be the only library left north of Aylesbury.

Winslow county councillor David Rowland said: “I refer to the area north of Aylesbury as the Frozen North. We feel very much neglected.

“Rural areas like ours seem to get very little money spent on them.”

Councillor Rowland plans to ask the county council to keep Winslow library open as a special case.

Under the plans, which would save £688,000 over the next three years, the county council would provide the 14 communities with the library building and limited funds, while the residents would have to buy books, run staff rotas and employ a librarian.

Around 200 people attended two meetings in Winslow to discuss the proposals which would see the town’s library run by volunteers.

Winslow town councillor Llew Monger said: “People are incensed that yet again they see cuts being focused on the north of the county, and particularly on our community.

“Having already lost the Reflex Gym we are facing the closure of the youth club, new car parking charges and next year we will have to take responsibility for the public toilets.”

Councillor Monger also questioned the timing of the consultation saying that it failed to take into account the Christmas holidays and the cycle of district and town council meetings.

“It’s a busy time of year. If you start a process a month before Christmas you can’t expect people to get excited about it until the middle of January,” he said.

Bucks County Council said the consultation period was set at 12 weeks which follows central government good practice recommendations.

Over 2,500 people have responded to the consultation online and via the questionnaire.

The findings will be presented to cabinet in April when a decision will be made on the proposals.

Patricia Birchley, cabinet member for adults and family wellbeing, said: “We are really encouraged at the huge response we have had from residents so far.

“Everyone’s views are really important to us and I can reassure residents that no decisions have been made.

“We recognise that each community is different and I am positive that if we work together we can find ways to keep our libraries at the heart of the local community.”