Sunderland agrees library closures

Sunderland City Council's cabinet has agreed plans to close nine of the city's 20 libraries.

At a cabinet meeting of Sunderland City Council, held yesterday evening (4th September), senior councillors agreed plans to close nine libraries, in the hopes of saving £850,000 a year.

Many councillor expressed regret at the decision, but said it was a necessary step. Councillor Graeme Miller was quoted in the Sunderland Echo saying: "Nobody becomes a councillor to shut things. The focus should be on the Coalition Government who have cut our funding by £100,000 in the past three years. That’s 25% of our budget gone. We’re not doing this because we want to, we’re doing this because we have to.

"Because of the internet, because of Facebook, because of gadgets, we don’t need libraries in the way we used to when I was 15."

Protestors held a campaign outside the council offices before the meeting, and a member of Hands Off Sunderland Libraries was allowed to address the cabinet from the public gallery. Klaire Ferry said: "We don’t think you are taking into consideration what these buildings are about, which is social unity, especially in deprived areas."

The 11 libraries which will remain open account for 87.5% of library visits in the past year according to a consultation undertaken by the council. The main City Library will see a refurbishment, while the council has also promised to improve IT services and home services for the elderly, while people will be able to request books from new online catalogues installed at post offices, health centres and other locations.