A Falmouth schoolboy’s passionate bid to reverse cuts to library opening hours has been rejected, but councillors have vowed to take into account his series of requests, dubbed ‘Leon’s List’, when making future decisions.

Leon Remphry, ten, a pupil at King Charles School, has been busy gathering signatures and pushing councillors to think again about recent and future changes to reduce the service.

His campaign has seen him protesting outside New County Hall, speaking to thousands of people in the street, and pushing local councillors and even his MP to support his plea to protect what he calls a vital way for children to access knowledge.

Leon was even supported by iconic children’s author Michael Morpurgo, who threw his literary weight behind the campaign at a special debate held at King Charles School last week.

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The author was part of a panel which included the former head librarian at the Falmouth School of Art, Derek Toyne, Fiona Ferguson leader of the Conservative group on Cornwall Council and children’s librarian in her youth, and Adam Paynter, the councillor with responsibility for libraries on the council’s ruling cabinet.

Leon said: “It was incredible, and words can't describe how I felt when Michael replied to my request to attend. It took a while to sink in that Michael had said yes.

“When he arrived, I couldn’t comprehend that a world famous award winning author was actually coming to meet me to lend his support all the way from Devon.”

At the debate, after councillors faced a grilling for the young pupils, Mr Morpurgo spoke passionately about why libraries were so important and why he had chosen to step up and push for Leon’s “crusade” to be recognised and acted upon by the councillors.

Speaking after the debate Mr Morpurgo said: “While I have been to many schools to read for the pupils it is unique that a child would stand up and demand that people think again. Cornwall Council has to take notice that this matters to people.”

He added that he, and the councillors making the decision, had the benefit of free access to knowledge and to take that away from the youth today was “unacceptable”.

“Knowledge should be available to everyone; having books to read should not depend on whether or not you can afford to buy them, that is the central point.

“It is like the NHS, books should always be available free at the point of use. Cornwall should stand up and be an example and say no, we must be able to do this differently.”

Mr Morpurgo also gave Leon a formal letter of support and asked that he handed this over to Cornwall Council on his behalf.

The campaign reached a crescendo on Tuesday when Leon finally had a chance to speak in front of the whole council and present his nearly 8,000 name petition as members sat to debate the budget cuts planned for coming years.

Speaking with confidence belying his young age Leon asked for all further budget cuts to the libraries are halted with immediate effect to allow for meaningful public consultation, something Cornwall Council admits has not happened.

He also called for the decision to cut library hours to be reversed, or at a minimum, to restore all day opening on Saturdays, and at least one late night per week He added that any proposal to devolve responsibility to town and parish councils is reviewed by a strategy group of experts and if volunteers are needed, then recruitment is done properly with clearly defined roles and money set aside for training and called for a review on how the cuts to the mobile library service will meet the needs of people in remote areas.

He also questioned the lack of any public consultation on the reduction and transfer of library services.

Leon ended with a plea that any further cuts are stopped, and that he did not think “anyone should let the libraries be closed without a fight”.

However, despite his and his supporters best efforts, councillors had been recommended to reject the petition, with officers saying: “In view of the consultative and decision making process that has been undertaken in respect of the reduction in opening hours, and the significant financial challenges that the Council is facing, the Council does not accede to the request set out in the petition that the Council be requested to keep libraries open for longer.”

Leon heard that the introduction of reduced opening hours was “unfortunate”, but it was considered a much better option than complete closure of some sites, with Adam Paynter saying: “None of us want to be in this position.”

Reiterating that Cornwall Council had no plans to close any libraries, he called the changes necessary due to the need to save £1.3m for the years 2013/14 and 2014/15, and that the reduction of library and one stop shop opening hours was one of a number of initiatives and contributed £400,000.

The changes being laid out in the current budget are due to a need to save even more in years to come and councillors heard that the risk of adopting the petition and keeping libraries open longer was “unachievable with current budgets and therefore the increased costs will have to be found from savings in other areas.

Despite not persuading councillors to reverse their decision, Leon still left partly victorious, with a late amendment proposed by Councillor Joyce Duffin that the council would take into account Leon’s list of requests and his petition when making future decisions.

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