Library groups in Northamptonshire say community libraries will provide 'no sustainability'

A protest group gathered outside county hall to support "option four".
A protest group gathered outside county hall to support "option four".

Supporters of Northamptonshire libraries are still fighting against plans to 'savagely' axe library services and facilities countywide.

The controversial proposals, which were open to public consultation last year, included options to close all of Northamptonshire's small libraries and make almost half of its trading standards staff redundant.

The council intends to introduce a "community-managed library model" where they hand over the responsibility of smaller libraries to unpaid local volunteers.

They will provide financial support to the libraries during 2018/19 as a "transition year" and pay a year of rent (but not gas, water or electric bills) from April 2019/20. After that, they will belong to the community.

Library supporters say they believe the library review process was and continues to be 'flawed'.

Option 4 supporters claim they suspected that the decision to opt for Option 1 was predetermined, and describe the decision to go ahead with it as 'concerning'.

Graham Croucher, spokesperson for Option 4 and 'Friends' groups said: “A massive public response was overwhelmingly against library closures and community-run libraries. Our campaign has forced NCC into a delay, though nothing has changed in that NCC still wish to offload libraries, but now we recognise that their process was flawed and had no chance of success in the short term.

"The sad reality is that no amount of delay will enable tiny community groups to become viable and sustainable businesses. Libraries have never been good business models and never will be, they are a statutory public service.

"Those parish councils which are opting to step in to rescue their libraries are now proposing a rise in precepts. In this crazy proposal, taxpayers will find themselves paying twice for a service that was the model of efficiency but will become a shadow of its former self. This is a sad indictment of a county council that shows no remorse nor accountability but chooses instead to play casino politics with people’s lives. We will continue our campaign to protect our libraries and give them a real sustainable future for all that wish or need to use them.”

The group remains opposed to the idea of community-run libraries as they will provide 'no sustainability'.

The spokesman adds: "Not one expert, councillor nor MP can identify to us where we can procure sustainable funding or a sustainable supply of community volunteers to do the job of paid professional library staff and provide the networked safe haven of provision we enjoy now."

In the meantime, library supporters are continuing to make their concerns heard to their local councillors by urging them that the public want no major reduction in the library service.

But a spokesman for Northamptonshire County Council said: “Following extensive consultation Northamptonshire County Council’s cabinet discussed revised proposals for the library service at its meeting on Tuesday this week. These revised proposals will now be discussed by full council at its meeting to set the county’s budget.

“The financial position facing the county means difficult decisions have to be considered as the council continues to look at ways to balance its plummeting income from Government with the ever-increasing demands and costs of children’s and adults social care.”