Community groups bidding to take over their libraries in Northamptonshire will have six-weeks to produce business plans - or the only option for the buildings might be closure.
Proposals for the long-term future of Northamptonshire County Council’s library service will be discussed at a meeting of the cabinet on May 14, 2019.
The plans have been drawn up with community groups and district, borough, town and parish councils and have been 'refined', the county council says, following a consultation process.
The strategy aims to retain as many libraries as possible with 14 to be managed directly by the county council, satisfying the council’s statutory duty.
It is proposed that a further five libraries would provide statutory services and be managed by community groups. The remaining 17 would be managed entirely by the community.
Councillor Cécile Irving-Swift, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Health and Well-Being, said: “Throughout the consultation process we have seen what a passion people in the county have for their libraries and books. I am delighted that we have been able to work with many people to develop a strategy for the long-term future of the service.
“We believe that our plans offer a solution that enables us to provide an efficient service that is fit-for-purpose and reaches as many people as possible, despite the budgetary constraints that we face.
“Community groups and councils across the county have come forward in support of the library service. Without their active engagement, the county council could not have achieved such a positive outcome for residents.”
If cabinet approves the plans, community groups will be given a six-week period to complete their respective business cases, outlining their offers and demonstrating the viability of their proposals.
It is envisaged that the first handover of properties will start in October.
For non-statutory libraries, if negotiations fail to produce viable proposals and no suitable alternatives can be found, the council says 'closure may be the only valid option'.
In such cases, the library buildings may be deemed no longer required and disposed of either through a sale, sub-let of a lease or surrender of a lease.