Outrage as nine Walsall libraries close their doors for good - VIDEO
Nine libraries have shut their doors for the final time across Walsall.
Beechdale, Blakenall, New Invention, Pelsall, Pleck, Pheasey, Rushall, South Walsall and Walsall Wood libraries all closed yesterday as cash-strapped Walsall Council says it does not have the money available to keep them open. They closed the day after the council announced a £4 million revamp for its Lichfield Street central library.
The council, which has kept Aldridge, Bloxwich, Brownhills, Darlaston, Streetly (which will be community run), Willenhall and the central library open, needs to save £86 million by 2020.
Furious library users yesterday expressed their anger and sadness at the closures.
One of them, 65-year-old Pat James from Pelsall, said: "I think its disgraceful. Its a community resource and is there for everybody. We use it and get second hand books - it is just shabby that they're closing it down.
"We can walk here from home but will have to drive to Rushall - its still not far but here it is easy to get to.
"People come here to use the library all the time. There's a meeting room at the back where clubs meet up. We've been to several talks there and if that goes, where are we going to meet?"
The closure of Pelsall is the one that has baffled many, with the library only opening five years ago as part of the multi-million pound village centre. The council owns the building and will still have to pay its utility bills with other services, including a number of GPs, still housed there.
Another user, 66-year-old Colin Skerrett, said: "There's going to be absolutely nothing for the kids around here. They do use the library quite a lot.
"I joined my two granddaughters up a year and a half ago and now they've got nowhere to go. They loved coming down here on a Saturday with their granddad and I was just about to sign up my grandson but found out it was closing. It's wrong.
"I can't take them anywhere, they're going to have to rely on their parents taking them now. I don't even know where there is another one locally.
"The computers are in use virtually all the while, with people out of work and no use of a computer at home so its the ideal place."
Eighty-one-year-old Ray Bush, who has been using the library for decades, added: "I've been using the library for about 50 years in its old form and its new form. Its a trek to Brownhills, especially for folks who have got to collect a lot of books, if you haven't got a car you've got to get the bus.
"Considering the staff are in the situation they are, they've been marvellous. I come up probably two or three times a week to use the library. I'm very very sad.
"I'm not using the computers so much at the moment but I have done in the past. And again, if you suddenly decide you want to check on something you think twice before going to Brownhills whereas you can just pop up here."
In Walsall Wood, 53-year-old Diane Fisher said she was 'sad' to see her local library close.
She added: "I use the library quite a lot and do regret that its closing. I know we will have the library at Brownhills but this is just useful because its so close to where we live. I'm sad to see it is closing."
Councillor Sean Coughlan, the Labour leader of Walsall Council who made the decision to close the nine libraries yesterday, said he and his team had 'tough decisions' to make.
He said: "“My Cabinet had to make some tough decisions earlier this year to balance the Council’s finances. There is no budget available to keep the nine libraries listed for closure open after June 30 and so these libraries will close and cease to form part of the Council’s statutory library service on that date.
"However, we are in dialogue with communities who have been presenting business plans to keep their local facilities open in some form. These plans are currently being evaluated to assess whether they are considered viable and sustainable.”
But councillor Mike Bird, the leader of the Conservative opposition, accused Labour of a 'spiteful budget' and said he will re-open Pelsall Library 'as and when' his group takes control.
He added: "It is a sad day for Walsall.
"We kept hearing from the Labour group that there was no choice but there are choices. Our plan was to have a library within two miles of every person in Walsall, but now we have people six/seven miles away from a library.
"The council might be making savings from leisure services but this will just lead to a cost pressure in adult social care as people, especially the elderly, who used the libraries as a way of social interaction are left isolated in their homes."
Walsall South MP Valerie Vaz said she is 'outraged' that a number of libraries had closed.
She added: "Local libraries are a valuable asset to the community which is why I have raised this matter a number of times with the council and the Government. It is vital that we continue to use and support our libraries.”