Lincolnshire County Council looks likely to stick with its original plan to withdraw funding from two thirds of its libraries despite a huge public campaign.
The authority revealed today that it would again propose cutting 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 decided to stick with the original plan. The 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.
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.
“Because of the challenge from Greenwich Leisure Limited, the executive will also be asked to look at potentially outsourcing our side of things.
“In light of the work that involves, it’s likely to take until the end of 2015 before a final decision is reached on who will run the service.
“I look forward to the views of the scrutiny committee and the debate at the executive meeting. However, I’m confident that the ultimate outcome will be a comprehensive and efficient service that meets the needs of residents.”
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.
County councillor for Deeping St James Phil Dilks (Lab) has backed the fight to save Lincolnshire’s libraries from the beginning. 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.”
Hours at Stamford Library will be cut from 55 per week to 50. There will be no change at Bourne Library, which has relocated to the Corn Exchange.