Town mobilises to fight library closure
Crisis meeting scheduled
HUNGERFORD began mobilising this week as anger over the threat to the town library gave way to action.
The bitter backlash has bolstered an instant grassroots campaign and as this newspaper went to press:
n The Friends of Hungerford Library had met formally and elected a committee
n A public meeting had been arranged
n A petition opposing the closure of Hungeford Library had attracted nearly 1,000 signatures
West Berkshire Council has announced that the Church Street community hub is among eight facing closure as part of its plans to save £17.5m.
The campaign group Friends of Hungerford Library has called a public meeting, scheduled for 7pm tomorrow night (Friday) at the Croft Field Activity Centre and all are welcome to attend.
Committee member Geraldine Fost said: “Our Facebook page has almost 3,000 members and it’s growing all the time. But we have very little time to get things done.
“Although people will want to let off steam at the meeting on Friday, it’s important that we harness that and translate it into action.”
She said people would be watching the reaction of district councillors and added: “We want to know they’re on board.”
Meanwhile, town mayor Martin Crane was demanding answers from the architects of the proposal.
He said: “It appears that portfolio holder Hilary Cole (Con, Chieveley) is unable to provide the financial evaluation undertaken by West Berkshire Council before determining that it could save £730,000 by closing eight out of nine libraries without my submitting a Freedom of Information request.
“It’s all very strange and they’re keeping us in the dark.
“How can we respond to this consultation process in a meaningful and constructive manner?
“I’m told that the running costs of our library are around £65,000 so it would seem remarkable that the district council could make such an overall saving without selling off the properties involved – in which case, serious concerns are raised about the future of the town council, which occupies space in the library building.”
He added: “I see no financial analysis that must have been prepared before such a proposal was arrived at.
“Unless we can see how the district council arrived at such a proposal, we cannot respond in an informed and as constructive manner.”
Mr Crane also wanted to know whether other options had been considered, such as reducing opening times and sharing resources, and added: “This lack of transparancy is very unhelpful and, in my view, totally unnecessary.”