Council ‘kept heads in the sand’ on libraries

Save Lincolnshire Libraries campaigners outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London ahead of the judicial review into Lincolnshire County Council's decision to withdraw funding from most of its libraries. EMN-140907-131105001
Save Lincolnshire Libraries campaigners outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London ahead of the judicial review into Lincolnshire County Council's decision to withdraw funding from most of its libraries. EMN-140907-131105001
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Campaigners have reacted angrily after council officers again recommended withdrawing funding from most of its libraries.

Lincolnshire County Council officers have recommended the authority press on with plans to cut the number of council-run libraries from 45 to 15. One of those to lose its funding would be Deepings Library.

Councillors originally voted on the cuts in December 2013. But the decision was challenged in the High Court by a member of campaign group Save Lincolnshire Libraries. Mr Justice Collins ruled that the council’s consultation was flawed and it had not properly considered a bid to run the library service by not-for-profit group Greenwich Leisure 
Limited.

The council relaunched its consultation but despite further campaigning against the cuts, officers have recommended sticking with the original plan.

This recommendation will be discussed by the community and public safety committee on January 27. A final decision will then be taken at a meeting of the council’s executive on February 3.

County councillor for Deeping St James Phil Dilks (Lab) has backed the fight to save Lincolnshire’s libraries from the beginning.

On Wednesday he said: “Today, the county council had a chance to show it was prepared to listen. Sadly, they have kept their heads firmly in the sand. The people of Lincolnshire deserve better and we will continue to fight on their behalf.”

The council wants volunteer groups to run the libraries it has decided not to fund. Groups will be given £5,000 per year to run libraries if they so wish, plus an initial £15,000 for startup costs. The Friends of Deepings Library was set up under protest to take on their library should the cuts go ahead.

Volunteer groups have come forward with bids to run all the libraries that would otherwise have to close.

Executive member for libraries Nick Worth (Con) said: “Officers have put in a lot of work to address the issues raised during the court case. Having done so, they still believe the model previously agreed by the executive is the right way 
forward.

“Volunteers would be at the heart of that new-look service, and we have been keeping in close contact with those that have come forward as things developed.”