'We grew up in libraries': Northamptonshire's authors pen protest letter to county council over cuts

Northampton author Sue Bentley and six other writers have lent their signature to the letter to Northamptonshire County Council.
Northampton author Sue Bentley and six other writers have lent their signature to the letter to Northamptonshire County Council.

Northamptonshire's authors are banding together to ask the county council to spare community libraries from cuts.

The county's best-selling writers have put pen to paper to oppose a plan to cut some £10million from public services, which could see up to 21 libraries shut.

Led by Northampton-born multi-million selling author and Sue Bentley, best known for her "Magic Kitten" series, they are appealing to councillors that the libraries help shape people and communities.

A consultation on the cuts offers three options for the libraries, all of which would close at least 15 smaller libraries in the county.

The letter was written ahead of a motion to offer the public a "spare the libraries" option as part of the public consultation on the cuts. The motion was defeated 32 to 11 against at a full council meeting on Friday (November 24).

Sue said: "The consultation is undemocratic. The public has been offered a choice between cuts, cuts and cuts.

"In the past 10 years, 170million of my books have been borrowed from libraries across the UK. You could say that leaves me out of pocket. But I take it on the chin. It's far more important that we have a healthy libraries system that's free at the point of service to everyone.

"I've worked in-and-out of libraries since I was 16 for around 30 years. I have seen how important they are to communities. They've already lost their pubs and post offices and now they could lose their libraries."

The letter to the county council protesting the cuts was sent earlier this month. It was signed by author of the "DI Will Jackman" series author Jane Isaac, "The Boy who Drew the Future" writer Rhian Ivory and Sunday Times bestseller Sue Moorcroft.

International bestselling author Louise Jensen, horror writer Mark West and author of "Mrs Sinclair's Suitcase" Louise Walters have also lent their name to the effort.

The letter reads: "We oppose any cuts to the service. We grew up using libraries. The free access to books was pivotal in our formative years and we collectively believe it was instrumental in our careers.

"They have become a vital hub in their communities. From the Sure Start centres, to IT training, to rhyme time, to reading groups, to information about all kinds of services – our Northamptonshire communities benefit in so many ways from having in their midst functioning, local authority-run libraries."

Northamptonshire County Council says it has no choice but to look at plans to change the way libraries are run in the county.

In a statement, a spokesman said: “Due to the authority’s significant funding pressures, we have no option but to consult on a proposed review of the current model for Northamptonshire libraries.

“We are committed to maintaining a library service that continues to serve the most people who borrow items and those who use the library for other services, such as computer workshops, registration services and access to borough and district council services,” the statement added.

“The proposals have been drawn up to take into account geographical location, deprivation indicators, patterns of usage, book borrowing and visitor numbers.

“The library provision is already hosted within the community centre in Moulton, and the council’s consultation is asking whether there is further opportunity for a community-managed library option to be developed.

“We are currently consulting on the proposals and people have until January 13 to have their say.

“All consultation feedback will be analysed and considered, and will help councillors make a final decision at the full council meeting on February 22, 2018.”