20 March 2014

Hagley villagers' fight to save library from closing

ABOUT 150 Hagley residents, parish councillors and county councillor Rachel Jenkins attended a meeting in a bid to Latest Newssafeguard the future of the village’s library.

People packed into St Saviours Church for the get together, organised by Hagley Parish Council, after it was told by the county council’s library service that funding would be cut by 40 per cent.

Worcestershire County Council’s library service asked Hagley Parish Council to take over the yearly running costs of the building, which equates to between £10,000 and £15,000 per year.

Officers gave a presentation on how they envisaged changes could be implemented and asked for community volunteers to come forward to work alongside library staff to reduce staffing costs further.

Villagers claimed they were being asked to pay twice for the same service and the parish council suggested the best solution would be for residents to pay £5 per year per average household to save the library.

Residents also questioned why payments had not been requested by local housing developers.

Hagley Parish Council also announced as part of a strategic village plan for the future, the library could be incorporated into a new community hub, along with other services, depending on funding from a number of sources.

Vanessa Payne, from Hagley Primary School, one of two village headteachers who attended the meeting, said it would be a ‘devastating loss’ to more than 700 children from the school if the library could not be saved.

Peter Rowbottom from Hagley Residents Action Group (HRAG) said: “This meeting is only the starting point of the battle to save the library and we would encourage anyone who was unable to voice an opinion at the meeting to contact the parish council with their ideas or be added to the list of potential volunteers.”

He added there were lots of complicated issues with the hub plan and said the only chance of producing a comprehensive action plan was by working together and supporting the parish council and by contributing feedback, ideas and offering skills that could help.

Those wanting to be actively involved could email teamhagley@hagleyresidents.co.uk.

Coun Lucy Hodgson, Worcestershire County Council’s Cabinet Member the Libraries and Learning Service, said: “We are very encouraged by the reception to the plans for Hagley Library, discussed at the parish meeting last week which should result in the library staying open.

“We don’t want to close the library, reduce the level of service, have less books or have so few staff that opening hours have to be reduced.

“We are confident we can avoid compulsory redundancies.

“However we do have to reduce our costs and we are pleased that our work with Hagley Parish Council and the local community will enable us to do that.”

She added the next stage was for the county council to work with the parish council to put together a proposal which sees the parish council take on the responsibility of the premises, whilst the library would still be run by the Libraries and Learning Service.”