Page last updated at 12:31 GMT, Sunday, 11 January 2009

Families march over library plans

Protest march
Protesters marched towards the Town Hall

Hundreds of people took to the streets in protest at proposals to close down several of Wirral's libraries, arts centres and sports centres.

Wirral Borough Council wants to close 13 libraries, three arts centres and three leisure facilities to reinvest 20m in multi-purpose complexes.

But local people have been angered by the proposals and say they will have to travel miles to access the new sites.

The authority said the reorganisation would improve its facilities.

Angry families took to the streets on Saturday afternoon to voice their opposition, marching towards Wallasey Town Hall.

One woman, from Wallasey, told the BBC: "We're in a poor area. We've only got two things. One is the baths and one is the library and both of them are being taken away. I don't think that's fair."

Children's author Alan Gibbons, who lives locally, was among the marchers.

Library closure protest
People are angered by the proposed library closures

He said: "Forty-eight percent of the British people use libraries on a regular basis - more than go to football or to cinemas put together.

"And it might not appear exciting and pizzazz and all the rest of it, but actually it's something that is precious to people."

The council said it was committed to consulting residents about its future plans for the centres and "appreciated their concerns", which would all be taken into account before a final decision is made.

Council leader Steve Foulkes said: "I have a duty, particularly in the year of a credit crunch, not to take money out of their pockets unnecessarily when there are solutions that can be made, and I believe improve the quality of the service that we are providing."

Birkenhead's Central Library is on the list of properties to be closed. Others are Hoylake, Pensby, Irby, Upton, Seacombe, Wallasey Village, Bromborough, Higher Bebington, New Ferry, Beechwood, Prenton and Ridgeway.

Woodchurch and Guinea Gap leisure centres are earmarked for closure, as is the Pacific Road Theatre.

But the council said if the closures were approved areas would not lose community resources, and Birkenhead Library would be incorporated into plans for a reference library in the town centre.

The library, on Borough Road, was opened in 1934 and was the country's first public library.

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