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North Yorkshire County Council has taken the decision to establish a £650,000 fund to create more time for reshaping the county’s library service.
County councillors have taken into account the clear messages coming out of the current library consultation which comes to an end this month.
The council needs to save around £2 million from its library budget over the next four years, with the greatest savings having to be made in the first two years due to the government’s frontloading of its funding settlement.
North Yorkshire currently has 42 branch libraries, 10 mobile libraries, and one “super-mobile” library, equipped with internet technology. The council’s consultation proposals involved concentrating services on the eighteen branch libraries which are the most used and most conveniently-sited, and on two “super-mobiles”. The eighteen main libraries would be supplemented wherever possible by a network of smaller libraries, run by their local communities with the support of the county council.
One outstanding example of a community-run library is already proving to be hugely successful in the town of Hawes, in Upper Wensleydale. Another is sited in a village pub at Hudswell, in Swaledale.
However, the response to the consultation so far has been clear that any cuts should be shared by all libraries, not concentrated on some while others are spared. Responses have also made clear the need for more time for any communities wishing to take over their libraries to put together a coherent plan.
County councillors took the decision at yesterday’s full council meeting therefore to look at solutions across the whole library service. They also decided that a one-off fund should be established to buy more time for libraries to remain in operation until communities can put forward their proposals for running library services.
The council has identified two sources of cash to make up the fund: £300,000 from the library service book fund and £350,000 from the general corporate budget.
County councillor John Weighell, North Yorkshire’s leader said: “We have had no choice but to agree a very tough budget settlement. The county has to find £69 million in savings over the next four years, £35 million of which has to be found in the next year due to the Government’s frontloading of cuts set out in its comprehensive spending review.
“We don’t like any cuts to our services, but everything we do has to be scrutinised to see what savings can be made. The library service cannot escape that scrutiny and we have established that £2 million has to be found, though we will continue to invest some £5m a year in the service.
“We have always known that libraries are important to our communities and we have taken note of the very strong messages coming out of the library consultation and we have therefore agreed to provide more time to find the best solution possible for a high quality library service.”