Essex libraries closures: MP urges rethink in Harlow

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Close up of a book being readImage source, Essex County Council
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The two libraries also offer baby and toddler sessions for parents, as well as free access to computers

A Conservative MP wants a Tory-run council to rethink plans to close two libraries in his constituency.

Robert Halfon says vital services are provided at the Mark Hall and Tye Green branches in Harlow, Essex.

He asked Essex County Council to rethink its proposals, which are part of a county-wide review which could see at least 25 libraries close.

But the council says technology has changed how people read books and the service must be modernised.

Image source, Google
Image caption,
The council is proposing that Mark Hall and Tye Green libraries will close unless "community or partner organisations" can take them on

The council announced a 12-week consultation would begin on 29 November, saying it wanted an "online 24-7" service which offered users more choice.

If the proposals go ahead, 25 of the county council's 74 libraries would close with volunteers potentially running a further 18 branches, including the Great Parndon Library in Harlow.

Harlow's main Central Library would remain open, while the Old Harlow branch would have reduced hours.

Essex County Council said library use had dropped by about a third over the last decade and many branches were no longer viable.

Image caption,
Robert Halfon MP said Mark Hall and Tye Green offered "free educational resources to everyone"

The council needs to cut £59m from its £1,851m budget for 2018-19.

However, a spokeswoman said the library proposals were about re-designing the service rather than making savings, and they would not be able to put a figure on any savings which arise until next year.

Mr Halfon, in a letter to council leader David Finch, wrote: "As chair of the [House of Commons] Education Select Committee, I greatly value these libraries' ability to offer free educational resources to everyone and this will only help the people in Harlow," he said.

The council spokeswoman said Mr Finch would respond to the MP's letter after the cabinet meeting on Thursday.

More information about the libraries consultation is on the county council website, and responses can be made from 29 November.

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