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Thousands sign petitions over Staffordshire libraries cutbacks

Staffordshire | News | Published:

More than 7,500 people have signed petitions against proposed changes to library services in Staffordshire.

The high number of signatures has now triggered a debate with library bosses at Staffordshire County Council.

Claire Geoghegan, of the Friends of Penkridge library, will get five minutes to present the campaigners' case to a full council meeting next Thursday.

Under the proposals to save money, more than half of the libraries across the region will be run by volunteers. But library users have hit back saying a vital service will be lost if the county council cuts its funding.

"The Friends of Penkridge library submitted a 3,000-name petition to the county council," said Mrs Geoghegan. "Seven other libraries have also submitted petitions, taking the total number of signatures up to 7,500.

"To collect that number of names in such a short space of time is amazing," she said. The county council needs to cut £102million from its budget over the next five years.

More than half the region's libraries would be run by volunteers in a bid to help save £1.3m over the next three years. Jobs are also at risk as the proposals would see community organisations take on 24 of the county's 43 libraries.

Mrs Geoghegan said: "This is our last chance to get our points across to the council. We just hope they will listen to what their constituents want. We need this library in Penkridge. We have no other facilities like this in the village."

The council insists that there are no plans to close buildings and it wants to meet a 'shifting demand and safeguard the service for the future'.

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Under the proposals, the centres would be classed as either local, core or extras.

Those classed as local – including Brereton, Heath Hayes, Hednesford, Norton Canes, Brewood, Cheslyn Hay, Great Wyrley, Kinver, Penkridge, Baswich, Gnosall, Holmcroft and Rising Brook – would be taken over by the community.

The core libraries, which includes Cannock, Rugeley, Codsall, Perton, Wombourne, Eccleshall, Stafford and Stone, will continue providing a range of county council services.

There will be four centres of excellence, or extras, in Lichfield, Tamworth, Burton and Newcastle, which will continue providing the same levels of current services. Visits to county libraries have dropped by 12 per cent in three years.

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