Gosport councillor calls for cross-party unity over threat of Hampshire library closures

POLITICAL allegiances must be cast aside in order to save Hampshire’s libraries, a councillor has said.

Wednesday, 26th February 2020, 5:23 pm
Updated Thursday, 27th February 2020, 3:47 pm

Cllr Sean Blackman, a Conservative councillor for Privett, is calling for his party to join forces with Labour and Liberal Democrat campaigners to prevent the town’s libraries from closing.

Under proposals from Hampshire County Council, which are under consultation, 10 libraries are under threat of closure, including those in Elson, Lee-on-the-Solent, Emsworth and Horndean.

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A passionate reader, Cllr Sean Blackman has provided books to Gosport schools in the past. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Now, Cllr Blackman says all political parties must work together to find a solution to the problem.

He said: ‘I believe that if Gosport councillors stood together and asked the county council to pause rather than go ahead with their suggested changes, we can arrive at a better solution, a more positive way forward.

‘If we can put down our political swords, stop playing the blame game and act together for the interests of the people of Gosport, we can do this.’

Cllr Blackman is a passionate reader himself, having previously gone through 1,000 books in 1,000 days.

To him, having libraries for people to access the thousands of books available in the county is a vital service that must be protected.

He said: ‘It's very important to me that we protect our libraries from closure.

‘Reading benefits every age group by improving memory and vocabulary; libraries have a vital role to play in fostering a love of reading.’

Liberal Democrat leader, Cllr Peter Chegwyn, says he would support any cross-party work to protect the libraries, but added that it was the Conservatives who put forward the county council proposals.

He said: ‘I think it’s a fine idea and I’m all for a cross-party campaign to save our local libraries, so I wish him well with the project.

‘But it is Cllr Blackman’s Conservative colleagues who are proposing the closures, so work to save the libraries should start with them.’

The proposed alternative to the closure of county libraries is to reduce the opening hours by up to 25 per cent.

It comes after the council sought to make budget cuts of £80m by 2021, with £1.7m being slashed from the libraries’ budget.