Chiefs Brought to Book over Libraries; Cuts Could Result in 12 Closures

Article excerpt

Byline: Dave Black

TWELVE public libraries across Northumberland have been flagged up for potential closure as part of the latest round of major budget cuts facing the county council.

Consultations have started on the possible closure of six 'low use' libraries to save about pounds 28,000 a year, under an initial pounds 16m package of savings.

They are the branches at Hirst in Ashington, Lynemouth, Kielder, Bedlington Station, South Beach in Blyth and Hadston.

In addition, a further six have also been earmarked for potential closure - depending on the severity of the required savings which will not be known until early next year.

They are branches in Widdrington, Bellingham, Seaton Sluice, Guide Post, Allendale and Bedlington town centre.

Yesterday the county council said only a 'worst case scenario', in which budget savings of as much as pounds 30m were required in 2010/11, could result in the closure of all 12 libraries.

People in the affected communities yesterday condemned the possible closures, which they say will hit traditional library users such as the elderly and damage efforts to promote reading.

Some of the branches now under examination - those in Blyth South Beach, Hadston, Lynemouth and Kielder - figured in a previous shake-up of the Northumberland library service three years ago, but survived.

Yesterday Steve Webb, who runs the only shop in the remote village of Kielder, said: "People thought the problem had gone away because we still have a library, but it is now on the closure list again.

"Lots of elderly people access the library and they are not going to travel to Bellingham for books if it closes. People will not be at all happy about this, because it is another facility being eroded from the village. It is going to be a real knock to the community if they do it. …