Essex County Council U-turns library closings but still must be held to account

In 2018 Essex County Council announced that they intended to close a large number of the libraries in the county, including half of the ones in Uttlesford. After months of pressure they have now done a U-turn and have committed to keeping them open.

Barbara Light (R4U) Barbara Light (R4U)

Cllr Barbara Light, UDC Portfolio holder for Education and Libraries, said “We are delighted that Essex County Council has done a U-turn and decided not to close Stansted and Thaxted Libraries. This is real people-power in action! Along with many other groups, councillors and residents we’ve been campaigning hard against the library cuts. They are vital parts of their communities and are much more than just for lending books. The fact that the ECC Conservative administration wanted to close them in the first place just shows how out of touch they are. We will continue to hold them to account for residents to make sure that they deliver on their promises. In the meantime we want to know from ECC why Uttlesford libraries still only getting 2/3 of the budget they should.”

There are still concerns that ECC will try to slash services ‘by the back door’ and they have already said that they intend to part staff them with volunteers. R4U believes that people need to be paid a fair wage for a fair day’s work. Rather than slowly bleed our libaries of resources, they should be redesigned for how people want to use them today.

Cllr Light added “Even though the district council is not responsible for libraries, we need to make sure ECC are delivering the services that residents want. That is why we’re setting up a forum to work with residents and parish councils to redefine what we need from 21st century libraries.”

BBC News Look East covered the library protest in February the Saffron Walden Market Square.

About Residents for Uttlesford

Residents for Uttlesford (R4U) is the local independent party of north-west Essex towns and villages. Formed in 2014 by a number of residents’ groups, the party believes that on local issues residents should decide, not Westminster parties.

R4U is the fastest growing local political movement in its district. In 2015 it became the second party at Uttlesford District Council (UDC). In 2017 it achieved a further by-election gain with 60% of the vote. In the May 2019 Local Elections R4U gained majority control of UDC winning two-thirds of the seats. The result delivered the biggest loss of seats by any UK Conservative controlled council in the UK in those elections.

R4U’s success has been based on the desire to give local people a voice and implement long range strategic and sustainable plans for their area.

R4U is also the majority party at Saffron Walden Town Council, where under its stewardship the council has rebuilt finances, invested in community assets, and won multiple awards. It is a minority party on Great Dunmow Town Council.

Residents for Uttlesford can be found on the web at www.residents4u.org.