Approval has today (Tuesday, February 3) been given by Lincolnshire County Council’s executive board to controversial plans for a cutdown library service.
The proposals, the council says, were recommended by officers in light of changes in the way libraries are used and the authority’s substantially reduced budget.
Under the plans, the council will continue to provide 15 major libraries, along with online services, mobile libraries and specialist support for those unable to reach their nearest library because of, for instance, disability, age or ill health.
However, 30 libraries, including those at Ruskington and Metheringham, will be handed over to volunteers.
These groups, the council stresses, will receive ongoing professional support, be given more than £5,000 per year towards their running costs and access to a one-off grant of up to £15,000 for changes to buildings or equipment.
The council will continue to run the existing libraries in these areas until September 30 giving volunteers plenty of time to lay firm foundations for the new community hubs to be developed.
In addition, the authority will 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.
Coun 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.
This is the second time the executive board has approved this cuts, with the first decision - taken in December 2013 - quashed by the High Court the following summer due to shortcomings in the public consultation.