Thousands sign petitions to save Suffolk libraries

Petitions signed by more than 13,000 people were handed to Suffolk County Council today against proposals that could close dozens of libraries across the county.

Campaigners presented the petitions to leaders at the council ahead of the conclusion of a four-month public consultation on the future of library services.

The authority is looking to cut funding to 29 of its 44 libraries and is calling on local councils and community groups to take on the running of the buildings.

The plans, which would hit north Suffolk and Waveney libraries in Brandon, Bungay, Kessingland, Oulton Broad, Eye and Stradbroke, have already resulted in more than 2,500 consultation responses being sent to the county council. The public consultation will come to an end on Saturday.

Campaign groups came together at Endeavour House in Ipswich to present the petitions to county councillor Judy Terry.

James Hargrave, of the Save Stradbroke Library group, who attended the hand over, added that they would also get to air their concerns at a county council meeting next month.

'Stradbroke has submitted a proposal to Suffolk County Council with the parish council taking it over if the county council do not want it, but we expect them to give us money to do that. It is not clear how it will stay open - libraries need cash to keep open.'

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'A large proportion of the people have responded of all ages and political views. Mark Bee [the new leader of Suffolk County Council] has said he is going to listen and we are keeping a close watch and if he is prepared to talk, people are prepared to meet him half way,' he said.

So far, the authority has received 15 expressions of interest from groups looking to run their library services and anticipate a further ten by the end of the week.

The council is looking to save �125m over the next four years. However, a spokesman for the authority insisted that no decisions had been made. Analysis of all responses will be carried out over the next two months and a plan of action will go to cabinet on July 19.

The full consultation information is available online at www.suffolk.gov.uk/librariesconsultation2011

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