General Election candidates in Crawley have all called on West Sussex County Council to drop plans to reduce library opening hours.
A consultation into plans to close Crawley, Chichester, Horsham and Worthing libraries at 6pm rather than 7pm and cut the mobile library service from April 2020 ended last week.
Iain Dickson (Green), Peter Lamb (Labour), Henry Smith (Conservative) and Khalil Yousuf (Liberal Democrat) all spoke out against the idea, which the council said would save £175,000.
Mr Dickson said: “Libraries have been and should continue to be a vital service to their communities, as a place of learning and education, research, quiet places to read and think, a centre for community activities, arts and culture, community meetings and many other things for people of all ages.
“These continued cuts to vital services should stop. We should be asking hard questions of the council and government why, if austerity is over, such an important service to people is being threatened with closures and reductions in opening hours.”
Mr Lamb and other Labour councillors have launched a Save Our Library Service petition.
He said: “People in Crawley have had enough of these cuts. What happened to the promise austerity was over?
“I know how hard it is to deliver services in the face of relentless budget cuts, but you have to draw a line somewhere.
“The library service benefits people of all ages. Not every family can afford the internet at home, they go to the library. If it closes at 6pm most working people will only be able to use the service on Saturdays which really isn’t good enough.”
Mr Smith said: “In 2008, as then leader of West Sussex County Council, I was pleased to commission and open the new, expanded Crawley Library we enjoy today.
“I trust and call for its comprehensive range of services to continue being available until 7 o’clock and not close at 6pm.”
Mr Yousuf said: “According to the National Literacy Trust, children who go to a library are twice as likely to read well than those who don’t. Libraries mean more than access to books.
“The social and community experience of reading and talking about books is essential in enhancing breadth of knowledge which ultimately preserves the basis of our democracy.
“So the libraries must stay. If it needs more money, the Conservative council should cut out waste and challenge Boris Johnson on the ruthless cutting of council budgets across the country.”