BOWING to people power, Portsmouth City Council has agreed to a full consultation on whether to move Paulsgrove’s library.
Yesterday a petition with more than 1,000 signatures was presented to a meeting of the full council by the chairman of the city’s Labour party, Cllr John Ferrett.
His group has been campaigning against plans to move the library from its current home inside a community centre in Marsden Road to an empty council office in Allaway Avenue.
It has joined local people in objecting to the choice of a smaller building for the new facility – down from 114sq m to 74sq m – and the lack of investment compared with the new Southsea library.
The council has insisted that the move will increase the visibility and accessibility of the library, which currently only accounts for 3.2 per cent of all items issued across the city.
But Cllr Ferrett said whatever the final decision might be, people in the area should still be asked for their views.
‘The people of Paulsgrove expect, just like all our other residents, for the council to engage in a meaningful consultation,’ he said.
‘What people want is a little community engagement and a consultation which does not begin with a predetermined agenda.
‘There are no closed minds in Paulsgrove – if it turns out to be the best option they will welcome this move.’
Tory councillor Mike Park said: ‘I thought we were past the days where the council would say “this is what we think is good for you” and instead we would consult people – but that is not what has taken place here.’
Lindsay Williams from the Unison union also spoke in favour of the consultation, claiming there are concerns that if the library moved the attached community centre would eventually be closed.
Defending his decision to move the library, the Lib Dem cabinet member for culture, leisure and sport, Cllr Lee Hunt, dismissed the objections as ‘party political parochial politics’.
He said: ‘Across the country Labour and Conservative councils are closing libraries – that is not happening in this city.
‘This administration is investing in libraries and opening new ones.’
He added: ‘The library in Paulsgrove is working but it is not working well enough and we have got to put libraries into areas where people want them and will use them.’
Exact details of how to take part in the consultation will be released soon.