Lincolnshire County Council’s executive has today (Tuesday) agreed to cut spending on libraries by £2 million, reducing services across the county.
The proposals for a “new-look service” were recommended by officers in light of changes in the way libraries are used and the authority’s substantially reduced budget.
Under the proposals, hours at some of the county’s largest libraries – including Grantham – would be cut and volunteers asked to step in and run facilities elsewhere. The decision will see the number of council-run libraries drop from 47 to just 15.
The council says it will continue to provide 15 major libraries, along with online services, mobile libraries and specialist support, complemented by up to 40 community hubs. These will be run by volunteers, who will be given £5,000 per year towards costs plus professional support and the chance to bid for a one-off £15,000 grant towards changes to the building or equipment.
The council will continue to run the existing libraries in these areas until September 30, to allow “volunteers plenty of time to lay firm foundations for the new community hubs to be developed”.
The plans echo those announced by LCC in 2013, which led to a High Court hearing forced by Save Lincolnshire Libraries campaigners, causing the executive to re-think the plans.
Added to current proposals is the outsourcing of library services. LCC plans to undertake a competitive procurement to seek an external organisation to potentially deliver library services on its behalf, including the support for the community hubs. This follows an approach by Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL), a not-for-profit organisation interested in running local libraries.
Councillor Nick Worth, executive member for libraries, said: “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.
“Because of the challenge by GLL, we will also have to look at potentially outsourcing the service that would otherwise be delivered by the council.
“However, I’m confident that, whatever the ultimate outcome, not only will we continue to provide a comprehensive library service across the county, but it will be one that gives much better value for money.”
Because of the work involved in a competitive procurement, it is likely to take until the end of 2015 before a final decision is reached on who will run the service.