A pre-election war of words has broken out between the main political parties in Ore over just who is responsible for ‘saving’ Ore Library and whether the library has even been saved at all.
On Monday Conservative candidate in Ore James Dee published a lengthy post on Facebook explaining how the library has been saved, he told his followers: “Olly (Devaux, the second Conservative candidate in Ore) and I are delighted to announce that your Conservative County Councillor, Laurie Loe, has been working tirelessly behind the scenes to secure the future of Ore Library.
“Laurie has been facilitating and organising meetings between Ore Community Centre and officers at East Sussex County Council to find a way forward to ensure the library can still function in Ore for residents.
“The latest news is that the Library has now been saved!
“Following the enthusiastic and powerful community led campaign over recent months, Laurie has been able to build on this wave of opposition to the library’s closure and persuade officers to find an alternative solution to keep the library open. Now the Ore Community Centre will take on a five year lease of the library with an option for an asset transfer within the five years, so the building will be in community hands.”
But questions are already being raised about what ‘saved’ actually means and what is clear from conversations Hastings In Focus has had this morning is that the services provided by the current library are not going to continue.
Mags Pawson at Ore Community Centre spoke to us just as she was leaving with a colleague to travel to Eastbourne to find out more about how community libraries are run but she confirmed that the library in Ore WILL close as planned on May 5, and will have what she described as ‘some kind of grand re-opening’ a few weeks later. In its new guise the library will be entirely staffed and run by volunteers. It will open on three mornings per week from 10am until noon and three afternoons from 3pm-5pm. It will also act as an information hub and be accessible to groups including Citizens Advice (CAB) and Hastings Advice and Representation Centre (HARC).
Existing library staff have already been found jobs elsewhere so none of them will transfer and there will be no qualified librarian employed at Ore Library after May 5 there remains the possibility of one returning at some stage in the future.
In Mr Dee’s Facebook post he quoted former Conservative County Councillor Terry Fawthrop now a member of Ore Community Centre as saying: “We have always been committed to finding a solution to the future of Ore Library. At the community centre, we know how important the services offered at the library are to residents and we were keen to ensure they weren’t lost. We are delighted to have found a way, with the the County Council, to keep it open. We have agreed with Officer’s at ESCC to take on a five year lease to keep the services available to local residents and have an asset transfer option within this period.”
And councillor Loe is quoted as saying: “I’m thrilled a way has been found to save Ore Library. It has been a tough battle over several months, and this result wouldn’t have been possible without the community led campaign that raised this issue and fought so valiantly to save the library. Having worked with both the Community Centre and ESCC, I’m am delighted we have been able to now say we have saved Ore Library!”
Political opponents are not happy that the Conservative group has claimed responsibility for what is happening at the library and have made it a party-political issue. Judy Rogers, Major of Hastings says she can, “feel my blood pressure rising” and she pays tribute to a number of people, not mentioned by Mr Dee, including Labour candidates in the forthcoming Borough Council elections who she says have worked very hard to try to save library services in Ore.
Hastings Borough Councillor Richard Street says: “Indeed, there was a great community-led campaign which they kept well out of for what we now see were their own party-political reasons. The only Tory who showed any support was Liam Atkins who isn’t standing for election.
“They won’t have access to the ESCC database of library members or the vast expertise of the library service. The building may stay open and it may be possible to borrow books but a library is a lot more than bricks and mortar and a few books. Will they have access to the full ESCC library catalogue? Running a library is very different from running a community centre.”
That’s something echoed by local man Jim Breeds who says: “We wanted to save a professionally run ESCC library service employing experienced professional librarians.”
Hastings In Focus has been in touch with Mr Loe this morning asking for further comment.