Council told: ‘Libraries are the gateway to education’

Sundon Park library could close under the proposals
Sundon Park library could close under the proposals

Drastic cost-cutting proposals to scale back Luton’s libraries have seen 2,000 people put pen to paper to voice their views.

Cuts to the library service, which costs £2.7 million a year to run, could see the loss of the mobile library service and the closure of either Leagrave or Marsh Farm library.

Leagrave library, in Marsh Road, has 6,900 members, while Marsh Farm, based at Lea Manor High School, has 2,900.

Wigmore library would downsize to move into Raynham Way community centre, and Stopsley and Sundon Park libraries would close, with one moving into a community centre.

A second option on the table would see the mobile library service retained but in return the central library and Leagrave or Marsh Farm would have to close one day a week.

With both options, the home library service would remain.

Two public meetings on Tuesday saw library users tell council staff what they thought of the proposals.

One audience member at the evening meeting at the central library said: “Libraries are very important institutions – they are a gateway to educating people. Do you want to save money to the cost of the community at large?”

Another said: “I need to very strongly endorse the importance of the mobile library. People who don’t have a library within easy reach or can’t get out to one really need to still be able to be involved with the community.”

Maggie Appleton, head of Luton Culture, which runs the libraries on behalf of Luton Borough Council, said: “We would never, ever want to see a detrimental impact on our libraries, but at the end of the day our board of trustees has to balance the books.

“Our income from the council has gone down substantially.”

A Sundon Park resident told the meeting that if the area’s library was closed it would add to the feeling of being a “lost community”, while another said it was a “forgotten estate”.

Michael McMahon, the council’s head of community living, said “a lot of time and effort” had gone into preparing the proposals.

“We have tried to ensure it was as fair and balanced as possible. It was about trying to come up with options for coverage in the borough.”