Hampshire County Council confirms eight libraries will close in 2021 including Elson, Lee-on-the-Solent and Horndean

A BROADSIDE has been launched at a prominent councillor over the decision to push ahead with closing eight libraries in Hampshire.

By David George
Tuesday, 28th July 2020, 5:58 pm
Updated Tuesday, 28th July 2020, 6:00 pm

Hampshire County Council will close libraries in Elson, Lee-on-the-Solent, Horndean, Fair Oak, Blackfield, Lyndhurst, Odiham and South Ham on January 1 in a bid to save £1.76m.

The decision made by Cllr Sean Woodward today came following a consultation that received more than 21,000 responses and cost the council £60,000. As well as the closures, opening hours will be reduced by an average of 20 per cent.

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Elson Library in Gosport. Picture: Belinda Dickins

Before the decision was made, Cllr Woodward faced fierce criticism from other councillors and Hampshire residents.

Cllr Graham Burgess, Conservative ward councillor for Lee East, said: ‘Gosport has four libraries and so does Fareham. But Gosport has 50 per cent cut and Fareham doesn’t.

‘The executive member is also the leader of Fareham Borough Council.

‘The consultation gave two options and I ask you to honour the consultation result and keep Lee-on-the-Solent Library open, as well as the others under threat.’

Resident Peter Fletcher, who spoke at the meeting, added: ‘Since retiring I have been using the libraries regularly.

‘With people having to drive further to get to a library, there are additional carbon emissions to consider.

‘The internal report initially indicated a foregone conclusion.’

Suggestions were put forward for a delay to the closure of Odiham Library, with a working group set up to find a solution.

Meanwhile, other councillors such as Cllr Chris Carter suggested that volunteer-run community hubs could safeguard libraries for the future.

Cllr Woodward insisted on pushing ahead with the closures as planned, but added that he would be ‘pleased’ to see communities take over the role of running their local libraries.

He said: ‘Whatever falls between [the options] is a compromise.

‘This is a consultation, it isn’t a referendum and at the end of the day we have to consider the prevailing circumstances.’

Libraries up for closure will be able to request £10,000 from the Recreation and Heritage Community Fund to support the transition period.

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