On Saturday 4 February 2017 I visited Pleck and Pheasey Library – two of the three libraries facing closure in Walsall South.
I am alarmed by the prospect of closure. Libraries are not only used for lending books. At Pleck, the Library is used by an over 50s club, a knitting club and a Beginners’ IT club amongst others. There are also regular author visits. At Pheasey Library, there are book clubs, Lego clubs, teaching and reading classes. I also hold regular surgeries at Pheasey Library. All this risks being lost if the Library is closed.
Local Libraries are a valuable asset to the community which is why I have raised this matter a number of times with the Council and the Government. In January 2016 constituents and I held a demonstration outside Pleck Library against the proposed closure of Pleck and South Walsall Libraries. I presented a petition in Parliament to save Pleck Library which had over 1,100 signatures.
There are 9,563 children living in poverty in my constituency. This amounts to 37% of children in poverty. For Pleck, it is well above the national average, with 44.65% of children in poverty. Research shows that the Summer Reading Challenge in local libraries can increase a child’s reading range and their enjoyment of reading significantly. It can build confidence and independent reading, while preventing a dip in a child’s literacy levels during the long break from school. Pheasey always have a successful Summer Reading Challenge and last summer I handed out certificates.
Pheasey Library is one of the furthest libraries away from Walsall which will make it difficult to go elsewhere. Although the Central Library will remain open, this is too far for many of my constituents and in particular children to travel. With a local library children can visit on their own in a safe environment with qualified staff.
In the last four years, Walsall MBC’s budget has been cut by £84 million by the Government. That is why I have written to the Chancellor to ask for an increase in funding to support Walsall MBC. I have also written to Walsall MBC to ensure the views of my constituents are taken into account and that Pleck, Pheasey and South Walsall Libraries remain open.