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Campaigners Protest Four Library Closures

Baglan Library: Google Maps

Neath Port Talbot Council's money-saving plans have been met with anger

Campaigners will gather outside the civic centre in Port Talbot to fight against Neath Port Talbot Council's plans to close four libraries.

Those affected are in Cwmafan, Glynneath, Skewen and Baglan (pictured).

It is all part of the local authority's efforts to save money as it has been faced with making £12m savings this year.

Council Leader Rob Jones called the situation 'unprecedented' when discussing the draft budget last year.

A council tax increase of 5 per cent has also been proposed and the final rise will be set next month.

Public consultation on the 2019/20 budget proposals ends on Friday 11th January.

UNISON, which has called the protest, says libraries are the 'heart of the community' and provide vital services including alleviating social isolation and loneliness and encouraging people to retrain and upskill, returning them to employment. 

The union has called on the public to come to the demonstration which is taking place at 11am on Friday 11th January.

Jane Gebbie, UNISON Neath Port Talbot branch secretary, said,

“Our libraries deliver mother and toddler groups, education for those more disadvantaged and socially isolated, job clubs, story-telling groups for children and local history workshops. All that is threatened if the libraries go.

"Closing or downgrading them would be a terrible decision.

“Working with the local libraries, UNISON Neath Port Talbot has collated social stories which evidence the value of the library provision to service users. These social stories are being released on our Facebook page.”

Mark Fisher, UNISON Neath Port Talbot branch chair, said, “The libraries and our only museum are used well by our communities and should be supported.

"Neighbouring authorities such as Swansea, Bridgend or Carmarthen have not closed any libraries or made the range of cuts to services that NPT has experienced.

"Neath Port Talbot Council received extra money from Welsh government and we ask them to use these funds to keep these much relied-on library services open.”

Bethan Sayed AM said,

“Libraries are important community assets and should be treasured – it disappoints me greatly that Neath Port Talbot are proposing to close 4 libraries, particularly when we consider how many have closed over the last decade.

"I believe these decisions are short sighted. Libraries don’t need to be and are often not, just a place to borrow books.

"I would urge Neath Port Talbot to think about the impact of their proposals and perhaps consider new ways to use libraries before any firm decisions are made. Libraries, even if they are underused, can with a bit imagination and work, become centres for a wider array of services, partnering with other local groups, the private sector and local services, to expand their offer.

"Let’s not lose any more important community assets in Neath Port Talbot.”

Cllr. Angharad Aubrey for Coedffranc Central said, “As we know our libraries are at the heart of our communities and the people who run them are doing an excellent job.

"Libraries today are not just a place for reading books but are a learning hub supporting different people doing different things e.g. song and rhyme time for children, computers and research etc. It is also a place in which people go for information and social gatherings bringing the community together and tackling isolation.

"We are now in a position where we need to fight for the survival of our libraries and I will do all I can to support all libraries remaining open.”

Plaid Cymru AM Dr. Dai Lloyd stated, “The Welsh public sector has suffered greatly over the last decade as a result of austerity.

"All public services in Wales have felt the brunt of these cuts – but Local Authorities in particular.

"We need to protect key frontline council services and the only way to do that is to fund local government properly.

"The cuts to local government, compared to the significant increases to health is simply not fair.

"The Welsh Government needs to listen to the concerns of local councils and fund local authorities properly to ensure that we can protect vital services.”

A Neath Port Talbot Council Spokesperson said, “The Council is currently consulting on its draft budget proposals for 2019/20, with the public consultation due to end on Friday, 11th January. 

"Final decisions on setting the budget will be made by Councillors next month, and will take into account the responses to the consultation, including petitions.”

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