Alliance rebukes SEELB for slashing library opening hours

East Belfast Alliance MLA, Naomi Long, has hit out at SEELB Commissioners for cutting library opening hours in the Castlereagh area, stating that this move may be a prelude to their closure. Following the SEELB announcement, Belvoir Park, Braniel and Gilnahirk libraries will now only be open 14 hours per week.

Naomi Long stated: “Its is absolutely unacceptable that the SEELB have decided to cut opening hours in three Castlereagh libraries to only 14 hours per week.

“I hope that this decision is not an indication of things to come, because it appears that the Board are trying to run these libraries into the ground.

“Given that this decision is one of the first taken by the SEELB Commissioners, it does not signal a positive start to their tenure. There are very important decisions on school closure and special educational needs funding in the pipeline for the SEELB, and this must not set the tone for future decisions.

“The SEELB held a consultation process on library opening times, unfortunately they seem to have ignored what the public said on the matter.

“Alliance has, and will continue to campaign for a high standard of library facilities in the Castlereagh area.”

Cllr Judith Cochrane represents the Gilnahirk area and stated: “Gilnahirk library will only be open Monday and Thursday. The vast majority of people at consultation process asked that Saturday morning opening be retained for Gilnahirk library. The fact that the SEELB chose to ignore this will mean that fewer people will have access to this resource.”

Castlereagh South Alliance Councillor, Sara Duncan, said: “Belvoir Park library provides a vital service for local people. Many of them do not have access to their own means of transport, therefore they cannot easily use other library facilities. I welcome the fact the Newtownbreda library will open for 40 hours per week; however, this move should not have been at the expense of other local libraries.”

Alliance Councillor, Michael Long, who represents the Braniel area said: “The shorter opening hours mean that people here are losing out on using key resources, like the internet, which they may not have access to at home. The SEELB have not taken into account the fact that libraries are often a focal point for community activities and provide a meeting place for people. Depriving areas of these resources will greatly harm local communities.”


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