Protestors slam ‘undemocratic’ council after authority says Sunderland library closures are a done deal

Protesters against the proposed library cuts outside Sunderland Civic Centre.
Protesters against the proposed library cuts outside Sunderland Civic Centre.
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CAMPAIGNERS against library closures have vowed to go ahead with a protest march today – despite being told the decision is a done deal.

Sunderland City Council’s cabinet agreed to a recommendation to close nine libraries earlier this month in a bid to modernise services and save an estimated £850,000.

But members of the Hands off Sunderland Libraries campaign had expected the issue to be put to the vote at the full council meeting tonight.

They have now reacted in anger after being told this will not happen, and that the cabinet’s decision is final.

Doxford Park, Easington Lane, East Herrington, Fence Houses, Hendon, Monkwearmouth, Silksworth, Southwick and Washington Green libraries will all be axed.

“Originally, we were told the council was going to vote on that day,” campaign chairman Gary Duncan said.

“Now we found out that since the cabinet has made the decision, they are now not going to bother voting.

“We were going to try to influence the vote. It’s not fair for a cabinet of eight people to decide on such an important issue.

“We are still going to march that day to demand the councillors vote.

“It really needs to be made clear that they have ignored the signatures of 3,000-odd people.”

Protesters will assemble outside the Murray Library on Chester Road, at 5pm today to march to the Civic Centre.

Former independent Doxford Councillor Michael Tansey, who spoke at an earlier public meeting about the issue, said the process undermines democracy.

“The bottom line is on an issue like this they are removing the democracy element, not giving councillors a fair vote,” Mr Tansey said.

“I just think it is an absolute scandal. Here we’ve got an opportunity to engage with the public in a transparent way. It’s a conjuring trick.”

Coun Robert Oliver, leader of Sunderland Tories, said: “It’s not really fair that a decision that is that important to the city is taken by just a very small number of people in the cabinet.

“It’s obviously very disappointing that it’s not coming to the full council, where it can be debated and voted on.”

Councillor John Kelly, portfolio holder for public health, wellness and culture, said: “The city council consulted widely with residents, users and groups on changes to the libraries service.

“As I and others said at the recent cabinet meeting, we need to change how we run our libraries for many reasons.

“Budgets have become more and more stretched, and we’re going to take library services into the places people go.

“We’ve had an open and democratic decision-making process about the libraries service.

“This is in line with the city council’s constitution on how the cabinet and executive councillors have the authority to take important and key decisions on policy and services.”