Plans to save library welcomed

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RESIDENTS have backed proposals to keep an under-threat library and three community centres open using insurance money set aside to replace stolen civic chains.

West View Library and Community Centre, in Miers Avenue, plus community centres in Jutland Road and Seaton Carew could stay open for the next nine months to give voluntary sector groups time to come up with viable business plans to take them over via an “asset transfer” arrangement.

Hartlepool Borough Council’s cabinet committee endorsed proposals by the Hartlepool Labour Group to use the £46,000 budget set aside to replace the deputy mayoral chains, which were stolen in a raid on the Civic Centre on New Year’s Day night in 2008.

The vice-chairman and his lady’s chains, which are more than 100-years-old, have never been found, despite numerous police investigations.

Residents in the West View area, which could be hardest hit if the centres close, have welcomed the move that would also be funded using uncommitted funds from other budget savings.

Unemployed Geoffrey Redshaw, 47, who lives in Davidson Drive, said: “I would be chuffed if the library and community centre stayed open.

“My six-year-old son Keenan uses the library all the time to meet his friends, use the computers and bring books home.

“I would be devastated if it were to close.”

Unemployed Larry Power, 47, from Atkinson Court, said: “If the library does close then it would be shocking and bad news for the area.

“There is nothing else for the kids to do around here. I go in there now and again and the staff are always friendly.”

Mum-of-four Julie Elvin, 46, who owns Florians Florist in nearby Brus Corner, said: “The centre is well used by the community and they often have classes on.

“It has been there for years and a lot of elderly residents would benefit from it staying open. There is not much else in the area.”

Andrew Connor, 46, a cleaner at the University Hospital of Hartlepool, who lives in West View Road, said: “I use the library on occasions and it is an important facility in this area.

“I would be really disappointed if it were to close.”

Mum-of-three Pamela Keenan, 55, also a cleaner, of Dowson Road, said: “I just hope that the library and centre stays open as nobody around here wants to see it shut.

“It has been open a long time and these cuts seem to be affecting the most vulnerable in society most.”

The proposals, which are part of plans to bridge a £5.6m budget deficit, go before the full council for approval tomorrow.

Hartlepool Borough Council needs to slash its £90m budget by more than £20m over the next four years, with 86 council employees being made redundant next year.

The original proposal to close West View Library, plus cuts to library stock and children’s activity sessions, would have saved £235,000, while closing the community centres would save £51,000.

The full council meets at the Civic Centre at 7pm.