Shropshire Star

Festival bosses' fears over Shropshire library cutbacks

Organisers of a major children's book festival in Shropshire today spoke of their serious concerns about spending cutbacks on the county's library services.

Joanna Hughes and Shrewsbury Library, which could be affected by spending cutbacks

Shropshire Council is looking to reduce spending on library books by almost £100,000 this year.

The book fund budget is dropping from £395,000 last year to £304,000 this year.

Council bosses have said the change should not affect library users.

It comes after the county's libraries underspent by £54,000 on its budget for books last year.

A Shropshire Council spokesman said: "In 2012/13, the budgeted spend against the book fund was £395,000. The actual spend against this was £341,000, showing a net underspend of £54,000."

Organisers of the Shrewsbury Children's Bookfest today criticised the cutbacks and said children and families would suffer.

More than 1,400 people took part in the annual book festival last month – which attracted a host of top authors including Simon Mayo and Michael Morpurgo.

Festival co-ordinator Joanna Hughes, said: "Shrewsbury Children's Bookfest is deeply saddened by the news that there is to be a proposed reduction of almost £100,000 across the county for libraries on books.

"Shrewsbury Children's Bookfest successfully delivers reading programmes and events in Shropshire via its annual May Festival, School's Week and Book Award Programme.

"The organisation's ethos is to enthuse, engage and entertain children in the world of literature and live arts and works hard to remove the financial and accessibility barriers in order enable all families and children can take part in these events.

"If libraries are going to be prevented from providing a framework to support these exercises by way of supplying access to books for all within the community, then it is the children and their families who will suffer."

Mrs Hughes added: "Ambassadors for children's reading such as Malorie Blackman, the newly installed Children's Laureate, states one of her goals in her position as being to 'make sure every primary school child has a library card so, where parents don't get their children library cards, we'll see if we can get schools to step in and make sure that every child has one'.

"This news of drastic cuts in library spending undermines such an inspiring, simple and effective goal.

"It is a great shame that such an ambassador for inspiring reading in young people is going to be stifled by government cuts in her efforts to ensure that every child has a chance to develop a love of literature."

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