Audio: Cobbett & five other Southampton libraries to close unless groups offer to run them

saveourlibrary2The outcome of Tuesday's cabinet meeting is that Cobbett Road Library and others could close perhaps as soon as April 2016 unless groups come forward to run them. Meanwhile residents reported they found the meeting "patronising and disrespectful". Read on for more details and to hear proceedings at cabinet on Tuesday.


After being delayed by procedure since the original decision on August 18, the council's Labour cabinet finally voted through its plans on Tuesday afternoon (Sept 15) to withdraw funding from five Southampton branches and the mobile service, in a terse meeting that was afterwards labelled by residents as "patronising and disrespectful".

The outcome: Cobbett Road Library and others will close perhaps as soon as April 2016 unless groups come forward to run them.

You can hear the cabinet meeting discuss this item from this link or using the player below (the sound improves about 20 seconds into the recording but fluctuates periodically as council microphones cut in and out). Duration: approx 9 mins.

At the meeting Cllr Kaur (Lab), the cabinet member responsible for libraries, rebutted each of the issues raised by the previous scrutiny meeting, and council leader Simon Letts (Lab) moved to the vote, with no input from residents who attended.

Outside the council chamber following the meeting, there was an at times heated discussion between Friends of Cobbett Road Library (FOCRL) and Peartree ward councillor Paul Lewzey (Lab).

Secretary of the friends group Rachel Hickman said the decision was going to be a huge factor in determining whether people vote Labour at the next local elections.

Cllr Lewzey said it was likely people would need to look at all the things that will affect them at that time.

“There's a huge number of things coming through. The government are insisting that we cut huge amounts out of our budget this year.....” he said.

“I totally understand that, but we've got a Labour council who are not listening to the community,” replied Rachel Hickman. “The council hasn't worked with us at all. They could have actually looked at alternative proposals we put forward.”

Paul Lewzey responded that his reading was that 7,000 had responded to the consultation and it had actually picked up all the points that were made by everybody.

“My reading of the papers is that they've actually addressed them, but you may well have a different view,” he said, adding that he was surprised that the meeting didn't discuss it.

Kevin Lancashire, chair of FOCL, described the meeting as: “very patronising, and absolutely disgusting".

"The way that a member of the Friends group couldn't speak, and the way that that lady was treated: that's not right,” he said.

FOCRL is scheduled to meet Cllr Kaur for talks shortly.

On Wednesday at full council the Conservatives will move a motion calling for recognition by rouncil of the "important role libraries play in the social fabric of our city and calls on the Executive to commit to keeping Southampton's library buildings open". The full text of Cllr Fuller's motion reads:

This Council recognises the important role libraries play in the social fabric of our city and calls on the Executive to commit to keeping Southampton's library buildings open. The contribution libraries make cannot simply be measured in the number of books borrowed. Many of our libraries have also developed into vibrant community centres, without any additional cost to the Council. These centres have become vital community hubs that have enriched and helped bond local communities. A safe and secure place for children, an enriching and motivating environment, a place for getting back on your feet or simply somewhere to reflect quietly - our libraries provide all of these and our residents need and deserve them.

Council meets from 2pm at the Civic Centre.

Update: We understand the motion was passed with a Labour amendment noting cuts in funding from government to the local authority.


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