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Campaigners launch final bid to save Sefton’s libraries from closure

CAMPAIGN groups have made a final effort to try and secure the future of Sefton’s libraries.

A joint further submission was put together by Birkdale Library Action Group (BLAG), Friends of Ainsdale Library and Friends of Churchtown Library in a last-minute appeal to Sefton council.

Seven of the borough’s libraries in Birkdale, Ainsdale, Churchtown, Crosby, Litherland, Bootle and Aintree face closure.

More than 17,000 people have signed petitions against the closures.

A verdict on the plans was due on February 14, but, following passionate pleas to councillors, the decision was pushed back for a further two weeks to allow representations to be considered.

The submission was presented to council leader Peter Dowd last Thursday at Bootle town hall.

It proposed “feasible and sustainable” alternatives to closures, which would save more than £400,000 a year.

The submission suggested a six-hour-a- week cut in opening hours for eight “branch” libraries which could save between £9,000 and £15,000 a year per library depending on staff levels.

The five remaining “main” libraries would keep their current opening hours.

Cllr Dowd said: “We will take all the points put forward into careful consideration.”

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Ferry on the River Mersey

Police called as Sefton council cuts meeting descends into chaos

POLICE were called as a Merseyside council's meeting to slash £35m from its budget descended into chaos.Anti-cuts campaigners forced Sefton council's meeting to be adjourned for more than 45 minutes after breaking into loud protests just moments after it had begun.Politicians were forced to move the critical cost-cutting session to an upstairs chamber in Bootle town hall, where they rubber stamped savings to meet a £50m black hole in the authority's budget over the next two years.Street lights will be turned off, football fees will rise and burial costs are to become among the most expensive in the country after councillors passed millions of pounds of money saving measures.Charges will be introduced for green waste collections while residential care bed commissioning will be reviewed, with each option expected to save £1m.Council tax was frozen for 2013/14, but will rise to £1,489 for a Band D payer after rises in police and fire precepts. A 1.99% increase is planned the following year.Seven closure-threatened libraries were handed a late reprieve as the ruling Labour party agreed to consider any "feasible and sustainable" plans to salvage them within the next three months. But they committed to a £400k saving from the library service however it may be found.A £1m community transition fund was also approved to help volunteers and communities deal with the consequences of service cuts.The drama last night unfolded barely 10 minutes into the meeting when a packed public gallery erupted into shouting and chanting, with protesters accusing councillors of sitting in their "ivory towers" as they oversaw damning cuts to public services.The protests continued after leader of the council Peter Dowd and mayor Ken McLuskey had left the chamber, with police being forced to intervene after the hecklers refused to stop."What is this country coming to," asked one protester, devastated at the cuts agenda, while others shouted "shame on you" at councillors.One of the protesters, Ritchie Jones, from campaign group Stand Up in Bootle, left the meeting before it was readjourned, but told the ECHO: "The people feel they are not being listened to, they are not being heard, they are scared for the future."It's not just about libraries or golf courses, it's about cuts. Everything that's been done in Sefton, all the regeneration, is going to be turned back. We want the people we voted for to speak for the people."Mr Jones added his protest group had not attended to try and force the meeting to be abandoned, but that he had hoped councillors would refuse to pass the cuts, walk out of the meeting and join the anti-cuts meeting.But after the council meeting was re-adjourned politicians set about slashing swathes of funding for much-loved services.Cllr Dowd told onlookers the council had attempted to create a budget that was "imaginative, inclusive and responsive" but blamed the Coalition for leaving Sefton in "dire financial circumstances".He warned more cuts were expected in two years' time, and said: "The reality is the preparation for two years' time has to start now because I know there are going to be more local government cuts in 2015/16 and beyond. The fear that I have and that we have on this side is the fact that we in this area are going to suffer the same unfairness we have suffered in the last two years... The council is in dire financial circumstances and we have tried the best we possibly could to make the best decisions in a very, very difficult situation. What we have tried to do in the context is to be as fair as we possibly can."Leader of the opposition, Lib Dem Iain Brodie-Browne, said the financial situation was the fault of the previous Labour government, adding: "These are painful decisions, many of which we disapprove of, but overall are necessary in the situation."Leader of the Conservatives, Peter Papworth, conceded the budget was "a sensible and practical two year plan ".Read

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