Not satisfied with plans to close Leatherhead Children's Centre and Dorking Recycling Centre, Conservatives on Surrey County Council have decided to cut funding for Surrey's libraries by nearly 30%. The Council has not said where library cuts will fall - a consultation is expected after the next local elections - but a briefing document notes that just 18 libraries account for 65% of all library visits - implying that smaller libraries are not part of the Tory "plan".
None of this bodes well for Mole Valley's libraries which are vital community assets for our towns and villages and have already had their hours and some services withdrawn. Already the Council has pulled the plug on Surrey's unique Performing Arts Library at Denbies, which will only continue as a charity thanks to a concerted campaign by Liberal Democrat county councillor Hazel Watson working with users and friends of the Library.
Bookham, Dorking, Leatherhead and Horsley Libraries are managed as a group, primarily out of Dorking Library which has the most usage. There is particular concern about the future of the three smaller libraries, but there is also the potential for significant cuts at Dorking.
Liberal Democrats plan to use the consultation process to defend our existing services, strengthen our libraries going forward, and reverse the previous cuts. We will do this by responding to the 5 principles which have been agreed by Surrey County Council to guide the development of its consultation:
1. Libraries and cultural services provide and enable opportunities for everyone to learn, access information, acquire new skills, literacy and be involved in their communities.
2. There will be a focus on the wellbeing and strengthening of communities, particularly the most vulnerable, to enable them to be resilient, providing touch points and safe spaces.
3. Libraries and cultural services are most effective and efficient when they work in partnership with the public, voluntary, community and private sectors, including through the creation of shared spaces creating a model of financial sustainability.
4. New technologies, including digital, enable libraries and cultural services to reach new audiences, and existing audiences in new ways, and offer 24/7 access.
5. Volunteers are crucial community advocates and assets in libraries and cultural services, who also gain valuable skills and relationships through the work they do.
You can help: if you would like to support the campaign, please email us at email@example.com or telephone Councillor Paul Kennedy on 07947430762.