Labour councillor against his own council’s proposals to close a much-loved library in one of the poorest parts of Nottingham

Lindsay Kelly and her nine-year-old daughter Zana Matthews protesting over the potential closure of Radford/Lenton Library
By Matt Jarram, Local Democracy Reporter

A Labour councillor is calling on his own party to save a Nottingham library from potential closure as it would rip out “the heart and soul of the local community.”

Cllr Hassan Ahmed (Lab), who has represented Radford since 2018, is against his own party’s proposals to close Radford/Lenton Library.

Nottingham City Council is proposing to close the Lenton Boulevard facility alongside Basford Library and Aspley Library to claw back £233,000.

A public consultation has been launched, with nearly 2,000 people signing a petition demanding that the council ditch the plans immediately.

Council leader, Cllr David Mellen (Lab), said a reduction in government grants had meant difficult decisions need to be made but “clearly this is not something we would want to do.”

Cllr Hassan Ahmed (Lab), ward councillor for Radford is against the council’s proposals to close Radford/Lenton Library

Cllr Ahmed attended a public consultation event at Radford/Lenton library on Monday, April 11, where more than 50 protesters gathered to make their feelings known.

He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “I will be asking the leadership of the council to save the library. We will request that after the strong views of the local community.

“There is no uncertainty that local people are very unhappy about the proposals to close the library. Radford is a poor area of the city and has already lost the John Carroll Leisure Centre.

“There are not many other community facilities run by the council in the area. I understand the financial pressures on the council, which has been brought on by years of austerity by central government.

“No one in the Labour group is happy to close these facilities, but if this library closes it will take away the heart and soul of the local community.”

Protest outside Radford/Lenton Library over proposals to close it

Former teacher Lindsay Kelly, who lives 10 minutes away from the Radford/Lenton Library, was called to the event by her nine-year-old daughter.

She said: “When we heard about the campaigning, my nine-year-old daughter wanted to support it. A lot of her classmates would be impacted directly.

“She thought it was a worthwhile cause and her little sister, who is five, was also there. We made posters, we got cars honking their horns and it was in the pouring rain.

“We should be promoting the library, not closing it. Kids don’t want to be online. We had two years of that (due to the pandemic). They want a book in their hands.

“After lockdown, going to the library makes her feel normal and why would the council take that away? We do rely on this library, because it is local, and we don’t have another option.”

Her nine-year-old daughter, Zana Matthews, said: “I like going there. You can discover new books. I would be disappointed if it closed.”

Fund-raising consultant, Rachel Crookston, who lives in Hyson Green, took her two children, 11 and eight, to the protest. Her family use all three of the affected libraries.

“I feel like it is a matter of injustice that they are taking away the libraries from the poorest areas,” she said. “People need it because they can’t afford books. Where will we go?

“I feel like it is a personal lack of vision and care from our council. We need to invest in our young people. They want to try out books.

“My children use the library more than us. They take out 24 books at a time regularly.”

Protest outside Radford/Lenton Library over proposals to close it

Stewart Halforty, from Save Nottingham Libraries campaign group, said around 1,900 signatures had now been collected.

The group had even crowdfunded for a digital advert near Perry Road in Sherwood to be installed calling on people to make their feelings known as part of the consultation.

“It is a fast-developing campaign,” he said. “I have never seen anything like it. People were honking their horns as they passed on Monday.

“Consultations are not the most exciting thing in the world but there was about 80 people there and it was person after person standing up.

“It was not anger. It was people sharing their heartfelt opinions on these libraries. People said last night if they lose this library then it is the last piece of free open social space they have left.”

Protest outside Radford/Lenton Library over proposals to close it

Cllr Sam Webster (Lab), portfolio holder for finance, stressed:  “Final decisions in relation to the Nottingham library network haven’t yet been made.

“We are doing all we can to protect as many existing community facilities as possible and continuing to invest in our neighbourhoods.

“However it can’t be overstated the extent to which councils have borne the brunt of Government funding cuts over the past 12 years.

“In Nottingham our main Government grant is £100m a year less than it was – and cuts of that magnitude have serious consequences.

“Many councils felt they had no alternative but to close libraries and children’s centres years ago – something that we resisted because we know their importance to local communities and were keen to protect them.

“But after years of making savings to balance smaller and smaller budgets, we have fewer and fewer options of where we can make further savings.

“These are still proposals that are open to live public consultation, so things could still change.”

The public consultation closes on April 24 before a decision is made on whether the three libraries will close.

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