DEDICATED campaigners have said the community they support deserves better as a North-East town braces itself for unprecedented cutbacks.

Around 110,000 Darlington residents will bear the brunt of a £12.5million budget reduction that was rubber-stamped by councillors on Wednesday night (June 29).

Services across the town will be scarred by the deep financial cuts that will be implemented as part of a swingeing four-year plan.

But passionate protestors vowed to protect Darlington’s heritage in the wake of councillors agreeing to close Crown Street Library and take the mobile library service off the roads.

Around 111 Darlington Borough Council employees now face redundancy, including 25 library officers.

Council Leader Bill Dixon told 43 fellow councillors present in Wednesday night’s Town Hall meeting that the mass reduction in staff would scale back the authority’s control.

However, after more than half of the representatives voted for a reduced library service to run out of the Dolphin Centre, members of the public in the council chamber gallery implored councillors to use their current powers to rethink the plan.

Speaking immediately after the meeting, Darlington for Culture (DfC) chair, John Dean, said: “Tonight’s council decision represents a missed opportunity for the council to work with the community.

“As we have always said, the time has come for imaginative thinking and a new way of working and the community’s plans for Crown Street Library offered the chance to put it into practice.

“The huge numbers of people who campaigned to save Crown Street Library have been magnificent and they and the community that uses and loves the library deserve better than tonight’s decision by councillors.”

Just hours before the special meeting was held, a large crowd of library users of all ages rallied outside the Town Hall in a bid to sway a last minute change of heart.

But Councillor Nick Wallis, cabinet member for leisure and the local environment, convinced his Labour colleagues to vote with their heads which eventually sealed the iconic building’s fate.

Cockerton Library and The Bridge were both granted a stay of execution as part of the Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP).

But proposals to afford Crown Street Library a similar opportunity were rejected by Cllr Wallis who stated that the building would incur £150,000 of running costs in the meantime.

DfC’s Mr Dean added: “We welcome the granting of extra time to pull together a rescue plan for Cockerton Library. This represents an opportunity which we must grasp.

“We are also delighted that councillors voted to give the Bridge Centre for Visual Arts time to pull together a rescue plan.”

The group have urged individuals or other organisations to contact them in a bid to protect the libraries and The Bridge.

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