Anger as Sunderland library closures are rubberstamped

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PROTESTERS clashed with the city’s council leader over library closures.

Sunderland City Council agreed to a recommendation to close the nine libraries – Doxford Park, Easington Lane, East Herrington, Fence Houses, Hendon, Monkwearmouth, Silksworth, Southwick and Washington Green – in a bid to modernise services and save an estimated £850,000.

But campaign group Hands off Sunderland Libraries was angered by the fact the controversial decision did not go to a vote at Tuesday’s full council meeting, which they had hoped to influence with a planned protest.

Campaigners still turned up to make their feelings known before the council meeting at the Civic Centre.

Chanting and singing, about 30 of them gathered outside the council chamber, watched by two community support officers.

Council leader Paul Watson spoke to the group to explain the council’s decision, including Klaire Ferry, 40, and Tafazzal Hussain, 57, both from Hendon.

But chairman Gary Duncan feels let down by the process, which the authority has admitted will lead to job losses.

He said: “I don’t think a few people at the cabinet should be voting on the future of nine libraries, which are used by thousands of people.

“We want full democracy and we wanted it to go to a full vote so we could see which councillors voted to take our libraries away.”

Speaking during the meeting, Councillor John Kelly, portfolio holder for public health, wellness and culture, laid the blame with senior Tory minister Eric Pickles, current Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

He told members: “If we continue with the procedure we have in place, we will keep something.

“If we do not male changes, we could lose the lot.”

Coun Kelly had previously said the decision not to put the matter to a vote by all councillors was “in line” with the city council’s constitution.

Twitter: @janethejourno