Walsall library could be saved if mobile libraries were ditched - claim

At least one of Walsall's at-risk libraries could be saved if the borough's 'phenomenally-expensive' mobile libraries were ditched, it is claimed.

Walsall library could be saved if mobile libraries were ditched - claim

Douglas Hansen-Luke, Conservative parliamentary candidate for Walsall North, also said the council had targeted the wrong branches for closure.

He said: "It may sound strange coming from a Conservative but the libraries that have been earmarked to shut are in the poorer areas where there is more need. These are the places that would benefit most from a library."

The would-be MP entered the debate on controversial library cuts following the council's shock plan to close half the borough's branches. A consultation is ongoing into the proposals.

Council chiefs have pencilled in eight libraries for the axe. The borough's draft budget plan lists sites in Pheasey, Streetly, Beechdale, South Walsall in Delves, and Walsall Wood for closure next year to reduce the library budget from £565,722 to £385,092.

Three others – in Blakenall, New Invention and Rushall – are down to close the following year to save £180,630 if the proposals get the go-ahead. The plan is part of a move to save £86 million over four years due to budget cutbacks. Some affected communities have launched petitions in protest, attracting thousands of supporters, although a meeting held on December 13 at Walsall's Central Library attracted only three people – including Mr Hansen-Luke.

He said: "If you look at the socio-economic map, you could argue communities like New Invention, Beechdale and Blakenall need libraries more than the areas that are keeping theirs.

"My own thoughts are that we should not use Walsall's two mobile libraries. They are phenomenally expensive, well over £100,0000 a year to run, and they cost £170,000 to buy. They are far more expensive than keeping one of the smaller ones open."

Libraries had become as important as homework centres and places for the jobless to find work as book-lending venues, the candidate claimed. He suggested cash to save the service could be taken from the education and social security budgets because of the way people now used libraries.

"More and more, libraries are seen as warm, safe places for parents to leave their children to do homework while they go shopping and for jobseekers to look for work on computers.

"So other departments, such as education and social security, who benefit from libraries in this way, should help to pay for them."

Library boss Councillor Khizar Hussain said: If people wish to make suggestions we will explore them."

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