Midday: Councillors have voted to withdraw funding from the majority of Lincolnshire’s libraries, forcing volunteer groups to save them from closure.
Lincolnshire County Council’s executive committee today voted to press ahead with the unpopular cuts despite a huge public campaign against them.
The number of council-run libraries will now drop from 47 to 15. Among those 15 are Stamford Library, which will have its opening hours cut from 55 per week to 50, and Bourne Library, which will be unchanged as it is part of the South Kesteven District Council community access point.
The council is likely to put these libraries out to tender unless, like Bourne, they are already in a partnership scheme.
All remaining libraries, including Deepings Library in Market Deeping, will face one of two fates. They will either be taken over by voluntary groups and turned into “community hubs” or will be replaced by “super-mobile” library, which will visit for a minimum of four hours on a weekday evening or three hours on a Saturday every fortnight. These remaining libraries would not be included in the tender process.
Volunteer groups that are chosen to run their library will be given a one-off sum of up to £15,000 for building work or equipment, £5,167 per year for operational costs, and up to 4,000 books. The group would be able to use the council’s People’s Network computer system or provide its own.
In a statement promoting the “new-look library service”, the council today said the plans could result in “up to 40” of the volunteer-run community hubs.
Executive member for libraries Nick Worth (Con) added: “The way in which libraries are used is changing, not just in Lincolnshire, but across the country, and it’s important we adapt with the times.
“We are excited by the potential for community development of the new-look community hubs, and I look forward to working with those that have come forward.”
Coun Worth said he was confident that the library service would continue to be “comprehensive” and “much better value for money”.
Volunteer groups will be given until September 30 to take over libraries. The procurement process for the rest of the service is likely to take until the end of the year.
More than 9,000 people in and around the Deepings signed a petition calling on the council to rethink its plans. Campaign group Save Lincolnshire Libraries got more than 23,000 signatures on a similar petition. The Friends of Deepings Library was formed under protest to explore the possibility of taking on the library should the cuts go ahead.
The council was forced to hold a second public consultation after a challenge in the High Court, but officers still decided to back the original proposal to cut £2m from the service.