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Council delay on library closures

13 July 07 12:58 GMT

A decision on controversial proposals to close six branch libraries has been delayed by Conwy Council.

There has been opposition from local people, some councillors and Clwyd West MP David Jones.

Council leader Goronwy Edwards said no decision would be made until it was known how the assembly government planned to invest in Welsh libraries.

But campaigners claimed the council had been "overwhelmed by opposition" and that it amounted to a U-turn.

The council had wanted to save money and modernise services.

However, many villagers were concerned about the loss of local services.

The Conwy Library Action Group said it welcomed the delay, but said it was "a face-saving formula", which amounted to "a complete U-turn".

Co-ordinator Christopher Draper said the campaign would continue to monitor the position in the coming months to ensure that the libraries remained open.

The council had said it wanted to improve facilities at seven main libraries, while users wanted more emphasis on IT and longer opening hours.

The library review started in 2006 and has involved focus groups, blogs and customer comment slips.

Mr Edwards said the library service had produced a "thorough piece of work," which was "clear, well thought-out and, despite its radical approach, is worthy of serious consideration."

But he said that the community had made its concern at the closure of libraries "very clear".

"The cabinet and myself as leader support the principle of developing excellence in a revised number of libraries and we are prepared to make the necessary decisions to achieve that.

"With the current financial situation, we can't make all our libraries excellent."

Mr Edwards said there were "significant statements" in the new assembly government's One Wales coalition document to establishing a "major programme of capital investment of public libraries" and improving IT in libraries.

"I believe it is important not to rush to design a plan for the future of our libraries if there is to be investment which may improve and develop excellent services in our core libraries," he said.

Mr Edwards added that the review would continue and encouraged the community to use the library service.

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