All Northants libraries threatened with closure to shut before being re-opened by volunteers

Irchester Library
Irchester Library

All 21 Northamptonshire libraries earmarked for closure will shut their doors at the end of September and some will only re-open if top conservative councillors running the financially-troubled authority decide.

A report released by the county council today (Wednesday) has revealed that despite leading campaigners to believe the libraries were safe until after a judicial review, the authority is now going to bring down the shutters on all of the threatened libraries on September 30.

17 have had bids from community groups to take over their running and a panel of top local tories will make a decision on August 1 whether the bids are successful.

However even libraries that are ‘saved’ will close for an unknown period of time.

A report on the libraries to be considered by the NCC cabinet next week says: “The legal process for transferring the freehold or leasehold for each library to the independent library group is complex and individual to each property, as there are unique issues that need to be addressed.

“This means that it is unlikely that transfer will take place by 30th September for any of the libraries.

“Dependent on the nature of the issues which need to be addressed it may take a much longer period.

“This means that it is likely there will be a period of time where libraries will be closed with no service available until the independent library starts to operate.”

The news has caused outrage among councillors who say this wasn’t what was decided at a full council meeting last week.

A motion proposed by Lib Dem county councillor Chris Stanbra to put the closures on hold until after a judicial review was amended by Cllr Dudley Hughes and said that no ‘permanent closures’ would take place until after the judicial review.

Cllr Stanbra, who is part of the bid to keep the library in Danesholme, Corby, running said: “This is not what the campaigners were expecting nor the groups who are offering to take over the running.

“It is completely unacceptable.

“It just demonstrates the lack of commitment by the Conservatives to keeping the libraries open.”

Labour county councillor Mick Scrimshaw said: “This is diabolical.

“If you close a shop for three months and go on holiday when you come back you don’t have any customers.”

Newly independent councillor Jim Hakewill, who is campaigning to keep Rothwell library open, said: “We were told that nothing would happen until after the judicial review had taken place.

“It is incredibly disheartening that we are now in the position of having a cabinet report that will be devastating to all the hard-working library friends.”

The many groups that use the libraries for their base will now have to find alternative accommodation.

The community library groups are being asked for thousands of pounds by the authority to either buy or lease the buildings and four libraries have not had any groups able to take them over.

The judicial review will be heard at the high court on July 25 and 26.

Cllr Cecile Irving Swift who looks after libraries,  Cllr Ian Morris and a group of senior officers will decide on a moderation panel which libraries can become independent.

An appeals panel headed by council leader Matt Golby and finance director Mark McLaughlin will take place on August 9.

The closure of the libraries was first proposed last October in a bid to save running costs.

The authority has been accused of trying to sell off the libraries for profit and stands to make £3.25m if it sells the 12 libraries that it owns.

Council staff co-ordinating the libraries review received strong criticism from councillors across all parties at last week’s full council meeting.

They were reproached for treating the volunteers who are offering to take over the libraries badly by communicating poorly and asking too complex questions in the business proposal.

The libraries closing on September 30 are: Abington, Danesholme, Deanshanger, Desborough, Earls Barton, Far Cotton, Finedon, Higham Ferrers, Irchester, Kingsthorpe, Long Buckby, Middleton Cheney, Moulton, Raunds, Roade, Rothwell, St James, Thrapston, Wollaston, Woodford Halse and Wootton Fields.