Libraries fight goes to No 10

BIG BEN: Library campaigner Phil Dilks (left) outside Parliament with fellow protesters from The Deepings.
BIG BEN: Library campaigner Phil Dilks (left) outside Parliament with fellow protesters from The Deepings.
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Campaigners from The Deepings were among protesters in London on Tuesday as they took their battle to save county libraries to 10 Downing Street.

A letter to Prime Minister David Cameron, asking him to intervene in £2 million cutbacks planned by Lincolnshire County Council, was handed to officials along with comments from some of the 23,000 people who have objected.

More than 30 libraries will be handed over to volunteers, where people are willing to run them, or close – leaving 15 council-run libraries open for reduced hours and a mobile library service with fewer stops.

Protesters also met MPs in a room at the House of Commons, but missed out on a meeting with Culture Secretary Maria Miller, who resigned hours later in a row over expenses.

Labour county councillor Phil Dilks, a Deepings campaigner and spokesman for Save Lincolnshire Libraries, said: “Our own MP John Hayes spoke up in support of our campaign and said he would be seeking an early meeting with county council executive member for libraries Nick Worth and council leader Martin Hill.

“We had hoped to meet Maria Miller, who was still in her job as Minister for Culture, Media and Sport, but understandably she was busy with other matters.

“However one of the best meetings was with Helen Goodman, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Culture, who promised to make sure the case for Lincolnshire libraries was raised on the floor of the House of Commons.”

Among others speaking to the 40-strong campaign group from across Lincolnshire were Sleaford and North Hykeham MP Stephen Phillips, a representative of Boston and Skegness MP Mark Simmonds, and Gainsborough MP Edward Leigh.

The campaign is backed by veteran arts broadcaster Melvyn Bragg and children’s author and poet Michael Rosen, whose comments were handed in at No 10.

Melvyn Bragg described the public library service in Britain as “one of the finest achievements that we have, alongside the BBC and The British Museum”.

The broadcaster said: “To close libraries is to close minds, especially young minds, and I do hope that the opposition to these plans will persuade the county council to think again and reverse what could be an act of irreparable damage to the future of learning and the enrichment of minds.”

Coun Dilks is asking Mr Cameron to take a lead from a Lincolnshire-born predecessor, Margaret Thatcher, and keep the libraries open.

He said: “Margaret Thatcher refused to close libraries because she valued the time she spent growing up in Lincolnshire doing her homework in her local library.

“We’re appealing to David Cameron to follow Margaret Thatcher’s lead on libraries and stop Lincolnshire’s madness in ending libraries as we know them in more than 30 communities across Lincolnshire, including the Deepings.”

As well as Market Deeping library, the county council hit-list includes libraries in Pinchbeck, Donington, Holbeach and Crowland.

The county council says Lincolnshire could end up with more libraries than it started with because so many volunteers have stepped forward.

But Coun Dilks said: “The only reason people are volunteering to run their library is to stop it closing under the county’s devastating plan. 
“It is simply untrue to mislead the public by suggesting that people are gagging to run their library.”

• A High Court judge has ruled that a full judicial review of the county council’s decision to off-load the libraries can go ahead – Coun Dilks said that’s likely to happen in June or July.