By Chris Cornell / Latest News / / 0 Comments

Local campaigners have expressed concern that Whitstable Library is one of 70 libraries due to be downgraded next year by Kent County Council.

Kent County Council is currently consulting on a major reorganisation of its 99 libraries across the county. Whitstable Library is due to see its opening hours cut by 16 hours a week (from 59 to 43 hours per week). Swalecliffe Library will only be open 23 hours a week (down from 40).

In light of this closure, prospective Canterbury City Candidates Chris Cornell, Val Kenny and George Caffrey are calling on the City Council to protect the library by expanding rather than contracting the services it offers.  As a hub where a range of local council services and advice are available to the public, alongside the library, it would be used more and costs could be spread.

“We all know that how people use libraries is changing, but they represent an asset in our communities which could be used differently and as a means of making council services more accessible” said George. “Over the last week we have been talking to residents about the library” said Chris, “like me, many have expressed horror at the idea of it closing and concern that trips to read with their children may not being taken into account in the consultation that records utilisation purely on the number of books borrowed”.

Libraries being redeveloped as ‘public sector hubs’ (also commonly called Gateway’s across Kent) are  are currently exempt from the reorganisation but so far Canterbury City Council remains one of the only local authorities in Kent not to have considered a hub to make your local services available on the high street. “Canterbury should be learning from neighbouring councils and introducing hubs like this into Whitstable” said magistrate Ms Kenny. “Last October, myself and my fellow candidates, heard from staff in Sheppey how bringing local council and voluntary services into the library had both boosted visitor numbers and made the council more accessible“.

Kent County Council are consulting on the changes until the 29th January and Labour are encouraging residents to have their say. If you agree with us that the Library could be better used please Complete the online questionnaire at https://bit.ly/2AzjBA5 or search ‘Kent Libraries Consultation Questionnaire”

By Chris Cornell / Latest News / 0 Comments

Name: Ben Hickman

 

Age: 35

 

Political persuasion: Left left Labour

 

Who are you? I’m a lecturer in English at the University of Kent and Chair of Canterbury Constituency Labour Party. I’ve lived in Canterbury for 10 years and I love it.

 

Kent County Council, what do they do? Well. Right now it’s full of Tories, so at the moment they mainly cut the budgets of public services like schools, social care, buses and the like. But we can change that. The fight to push back the sea of blue in Kent starts here: we can turn the County Council into something that properly represents, listens to and fights for many of Kent, not the few.

 

Does that mean I can vote then? Yes! You can vote if you live in the area of Canterbury North, and what’s more, if you’re a student you can register in two places — your term address and your address back home. Do it by the end of the month though — that’s the deadline.

 

If elected, how would you help me? I’m determined to be the first councillor for Canterbury North that listens to you, the people who live here. There’s already plenty to be getting on with, though. I want to fight for a new hospital at Kent & Canterbury, with A&E, and for properly funded social care. I want buses that run regularly and later than 3 o’clock in the afternoon, and free travel for under-25s. I want more investment in early years education so headteachers don’t have to turn special needs pupils away. And I want much more for Canterbury North!

 

Can you really make a difference? I’ve seen what austerity has done to Canterbury and its surrounding areas — we have to make a difference. It won’t just be me: the Labour Party in Canterbury is a social movement — not only do we have our own MP and some city councillors, unlike the other parties we also have an army of activists that are committed to helping those most in need. We can all make a difference.

 

Does my vote count? Usually, not many people vote in Kent County Council elections, and young people especially stay away. We’re going to change that next month, but it’ll be tight so your vote really will matter.

 

Do say: “For the many, not the few”

 

Don’t say: “Brexit means Brexit”

 

For more information on Ben and the Kent County Council vote on Nov 15, click here.