Villagers hand over Stradbroke ‘Save our Library’ petition
Community figures in a north Suffolk village have pledged to fight for their library after the facility was put in danger by council cutbacks.
Villagers in Stradbroke presented a petition - signed by more than 700 people - to their local county councillor airing their opposition to proposals that could shut their library.
Suffolk County Council is currently consulting towns and villages over plans to transfer the running of 29 of the county's 44 libraries into the hands of local councils and community groups.
More than 150 people attended a meeting in Stradbroke on Monday night to air their views about the consultation, which comes to an end in April.
Campaigners from the 'Save Stradbroke Library' group say their library is a 'lifeline' to the 1,200-population village and the nearest alternative in Halesworth is 13 miles away.
Ann Kerr, chairman of Stradbroke Parish Council, said the county council consultation had 'knocked me for six' after the parish council had entered discussions with the authority last year about taking on the facility in the Old Courthouse in Queen's Street.
She added that libraries were the 'very essence of civilised society' and accused Suffolk County Council of 'threatening and bullying' towns and villages over the closure of their libraries.
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'We will continue to campaign to Suffolk County Council to change this policy - there is some doubt whether this is legal. It is an act of parliament that says that library services must be provided to all those that want them.'
'We have to be realistic and the county council may not change their minds, so we have to work out how we can approach this problem,' she said.
Stradbroke Library, which costs about �50,000 a year to run, receives 13,000 visits and issues 11,000 books a year.
Guy McGregor, county councillor for the Hoxne and Eye division, who received the petition, said the authority's consultation was 'genuine' and people's concerns would be listened to.
'As a local county councillor, I am committed to maintaining and improving services and I will do my level best to do that,' he said.
Roger McMaster, head of Suffolk Libraries, also apologised after 'misleading' the parish council during a meeting about the future of the facility last year.