Anger at ‘snub’ over libraries

Louise McLaren, chairman of the Friends of Ansdell Library
Louise McLaren, chairman of the Friends of Ansdell Library
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The leader of a group campaigning to keep open a Fylde library has expressed her anger at being unable to arrange a meeting over the issue with the County Council’s cabinet member for culture.

Louise McLaren, chairman of the Friends of Ansdell Library, requested a meeting with County Coun Marcus Johnstone to discuss ideas for the future of Fylde’s libraries, of which four of the current five could be axed in their present form under proposals to close more than half of the libraries across the county.

A 12-week consultation period over the issue continues until August – and County Coun Johnstone told Louise he had been advised it was not appropriate to meet her during the consultation period – and suggested she contact the area’s county councillor instead.

She said in reply to County Coun Johnstone: “I am extremely confused how this can be a period of consultation when we are unable to actually consult with anyone who will be involved in making the final decision on this matter.

“We have been extremely frustrated by the lack of information and limited communication with LCC so far.

“Now that the buildings selected for closure have been identified surely this is the time for engagement with those directly affected as part of the consultation period. Otherwise, how can this be a consultation phase?”

Louise added: “As you can imagine, we are hugely disappointed and frustrated at Lancashire County Council’s response, or rather lack of it, on this matter.

“It seems bewildering that this can be classified as a ‘consultation period’ when LCC have consistently refused to engage with us. How can the council claim to be representatives of the people of Lancashire when they evidently do not want to listen to what the residents have to say?

“We are not seeking to meet them to simply be critical their decisions – we understand that these are challenging times.

“We have constructive, positive ideas that we believe would enable better outcomes for them financially, while still enabling the preservation of vital services in the area.

“To refuse to meet with us and listen to our ideas suggests that the consultation period is nothing more than a token gesture and decisions have already been made.”

Under the County Council proposals, Lytham and Freckleton libraries are both under threat of total closure along with Ansdell, while the Kirkham facility would be moved into a nearby community hub. That could leave St Annes as Fylde’s only library.

A spokesperson for the county council said: “Local county councillors are well placed to support local groups and help explore potential options for the future of local facilities. We would encourage local people to tell us what they think about the property review proposals either by responding online, via our website, or by picking up a paper copy of the consultation document from their local library or children’s centre.”