I note that there is another petition being circulated to save the Central Library building. My colleague Mike Royston attempted to get the building placed on the ‘local list’ of buildings meriting conservation, but was sadly unsuccessful.
I’m fully supportive of the building being preserved and remaining in public hands. Aesthetics are a matter of opinion but I believe that it’s an interesting building that would be excellent for public exhibitions and displays.
People in the comments section of the Echo newspaper ask why if the current Library is so good, why does the council need to build a new library on the site of Farringdon car park. It’s a question I get asked a lot, because on the face of it it does seem silly to spend so much money on a library when the council is having to make deep cuts.
The reason is of course that by sharing running costs of the town’s main library with the University of Essex we can make significant revenue savings whilst providing the same or better service. One thing that people need to understand about local government finance is that we cannot spend capital funds on revenue expenditure. The money being spend on the Library is a big capital outlay, but we cannot use that money to support continuing services. It’s not that we don’t want to, or haven’t thought of it, we legally cannot do so.
That said, if we can use capital funding in a way that reduces future expenditure needs or generates a future revenue income, then we should do so. Quite frankly the council needs to do just about anything to get us through the tough years ahead whilst maintaining essential services.
As well as being good value for money in the long term, the new library project also cements our partnership with the university of Essex, which is one of the relatively few bright spots in terms of inward investment and opportunity in Southend in these difficult times.
But that of course does leave us with the current Central Library building. I have heard a few ideas being floated for the possible uses of the Library, and I’m pleased to say that they are all of a public nature and to the best of my knowledge the council has no intention of selling-off or demolishing the building. I will be the first to object if they do.