Actor Brian Blessed joins Surrey library campaign

Brian Blessed at Bagshot library protest
Image caption Surrey resident Brian Blessed joined campaigners at Bagshot library

Brian Blessed is among celebrities to have backed a campaign to stop Surrey libraries losing paid staff.

Surrey Libraries Action Group said the actor and author, who lives in Surrey, joined campaigners at Bagshot library during protests on Saturday.

The campaigners have also received messages of support from Julia Donaldson, children's laureate, and children's author Alan Gibbons.

Surrey County Council has agreed plans for 10 community-run libraries.

'Library closures possible'

The council has said that allowing volunteers to run libraries is a move that is intended to keep all the county's 52 libraries open.

A spokesman for the campaign group said: "Brian turned up to lend his support to the campaign to save both Bagshot library and its librarians and he stayed for an hour, during which he read stories to the children present in the library."

But he added: "The only fly in the ointment of the day was hearing Surrey County Council's latest claim, in various news reports, that they intend to keep all 52 libraries open."

He said the plan agreed by cabinet on Tuesday included a commitment to discuss closing libraries if not enough library volunteers could be found.

Public value review

A report submitted to the cabinet meeting on Tuesday said it remained the council's aim to not close any libraries.

The report added: "Therefore following this cabinet meeting, if any libraries do not have a partner in place, the service will work in those local communities to try and establish a viable group so that library provision can be maintained.

"However, as set out in the paragraph above, if this is not possible, a decision about closure will need to be taken in December."

In a statement after Tuesday's cabinet meeting, the council said the 10 libraries that would be run by volunteers were Bagshot, Bramley, Byfleet, Ewell Court, Lingfield, New Haw, Stoneleigh, Tattenhams, Virginia Water, and Warlingham.

The council said the branches accounted for 7% of library visits countywide and ranked lowest in a league table of libraries as part of a public value review.

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