Levenmouth’s libraries earmarked for closure, claims councillor

The citys libraries have been unable to order new books. Picture: Neil Hanna
The citys libraries have been unable to order new books. Picture: Neil Hanna

A ‘secret’ plan is in place to close Methil and Leven’s libraries and council offices, according to a local councillor.

While Fife Council has branded the claim “utter nonsense”, Cllr Graham Ritchie maintained he discovered Fife Council’s plan by chance after challenging a community manager over rumours of closure.

According to Cllr Ritchie, who represents Kennoway, Leven and Largo, services at the two Fife Council facilities are to be gradually withdrawn until the buildings at Wellesley Road, Methil and Durie Street, Leven can be shut down and sold off.

Instead services - including housing, council tax and benefit advice, and registrations – will be available online or amalgamated with similar services at offices in Glenrothes and Kirkcaldy.

Cllr David Ross, co-leader of Fife Council, said Cllr Ritchie was ”scaremongering for his own political gains”.

He added: “He should be more responsible than to raise unneccessary concerns in the community and with staff with no basis in fact.”

Fellow co-leader david Alexander added: “Not going to happen. It’s frankly embarrassing that new councillors just in the door, are so keen to go to press based on nothing. They are scaremongering and wasting everyone’s time. There are no plans to do what they are suggesting and there won’t be.”

Standing by his claims, Cllr Ritchie said a withdrawal of services would be “grossly unfair” and make “life even harder for Levenmouth’s most vulnerable residents”.

He commented: “These facilities are lifelines for some of my ward’s most vulnerable and deprived residents. They need to be able to access help face-to-face in their local communities.

“Many will find it impossible to pay their rent or sort out issues with benefits or Council services online. Older residents found it tough when the two offices stopped handling cash for transactions.

“Not only will individual library users lose out, but children’s activities and reading groups based at the libraries will cease. This makes no sense at all when both the Scottish Government and Fife Council are committed to closing the attainment gap for children from poorer families and, more generally, addressing social inequality.

“Having to travel to Kirkcaldy or Glenrothes to access services will act as a disincentive for many. It places an extra burden on those with limited mobility or with young children, or who are already under extreme financial pressure.

He added: “It looks as if there will be no overnight closure. Instead we’ll see death by a thousand cuts, with services gradually run down to such an extent that demand declines and they are no longer viable.

“It seems crazy, especially as tens of thousands of pounds were spent on the premises in 2011 to upgrade and modernize them, even to the extent of putting in a garden.

“Leven and Methil have already lost so much without Fife Council taking away basic services local residents rely on. We don’t need more empty buildings on our high streets.

“It is unacceptable that these devastating plans are being hatched behind closed doors with no scrutiny from local members and no consultation with service-users or the wider community.”

Cllr Ritchie is seeking an emergency item at Friday’s meeting of the Levenmouth Area Committee to discuss the issue.

David Paterson, community manager for Levenmouth, Communities and Neighbourhoods, said: “There are no plans to close either of the Leven or Methil offices and libraries in these areas. These are some of the services that are already more integrated.

“Mid-Fife is a key priority for the Council.

“As a Council we are always looking to deliver best value. There is a drive towards more digital delivery of service, and that is largely driven by a demand from the public to be able to access Fife Council in that way. However, it is also recognised that face-to-face assistance is a preferred option for many who wish to interact with the Council. Any changes impacting on local offices would be subject to consultation.”