VOTE: Should Angmering save library from closure

ANGMERING could become the first community in West Sussex to step in and save its library from the threat of closure.

The parish council is holding talks with the county council over the future of the village library, currently housed in a former Victorian school building in Arundel Road.

And a survey of villagers has revealed strong support both for an extra parish charge to keep the library open, and from people willing to volunteer.

Of the 260 people who responded to the survey, almost half were prepared to pay an extra £20 a year on their parish share of council tax bills, while a third said they would pay £10 and around one in eight said they were willing to contribute £5. Just 16 people said they wanted to give nothing.

Averaged out, people felt a sum of £13.48 was acceptable, roughly 25p a week per household in the village, which would bring in £30-40,000, about one-seventh of the parish council’s overall budget of £228,000.

A quarter of people said they were “likely” or “enthusiastic” volunteers, a third said they would possibly give up some time to help out and the remainder were “unlikely”.

Almost nine out of 10 respondents felt the library was “essential” or “very important” and almost as many visited it at least weekly or monthly.

Monday night’s meeting of the parish council’s policy and finance committee agreed to continue negotiations with the county council over the library’s future. It followed earlier meetings between town and parish councils with libraries in the “coastal cluster” from Ferring to Yapton and also including Littlehampton, Angmering, Rustington and East Preston.

Faced with substantial cuts in its government funding, the county council warned its financial situation was putting smaller libraries in particular at risk.

Angmering Parish Council clerk Rob Martin said: “The survey results reinforced councillors’ hunches that the library was important to the people of Angmering. It’s clear there is a possibility the library could close, and we decided to do something about it first, rather than wait for it to happen.

“People coming into the office with their survey forms have pleaded with us to keep the libary open. One said: ‘I don’t know what we would do without it’.”

Discussions are likely to involve the parish ploughing money into keeping the library open, and even the possibility of the building, which also houses a children and family centre, being sold to the parish council, which would move its offices there and develop a village “hub”.

A spokesman for the county council said: “The interest shown by Angmering Parish Council reflects one of the Big Society aims of West Sussex County Council, which is to encourage people to help run public services in their communities, as well as boosting volunteering and take an active role in shaping the facilities in their area.”