Almost 180 jobs face axe if libraries go

FIGHTING CUTBACKS: Deeping St James parish councillor Andrew Bowell and county councillor Phil Dilks.

FIGHTING CUTBACKS: Deeping St James parish councillor Andrew Bowell and county councillor Phil Dilks.

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The jobs of 177 people will be axed if the county council pushes ahead with “the biggest library closure programme the country has ever seen”.

Libraries in Holbeach, Donington, Crowland, Market Deeping and Pinchbeck are among 32 libraries the council is trying to palm off into private hands – leaving just 15 on the council’s own books.

The authority is asking residents to suggest how their library might be privately run, but is banning protestors from putting anti-closure petitions in any of the public libraries.

Labour county councillor Phil Dilks, who represents Deeping St James ward, said: “It’s the biggest closure programme that the country has ever seen in 160 years of library provision in this country.”

The council aims to save £2million by shifting libraries into the hands of volunteers or even businesses.

But Coun Dilks says library service bosses cannot tell him what the possible redundancy bill will be for the 177 staff, because that’s handled by a different department, and it may well exceed any savings made.

He says many of the staff are part-time but the jobs add up to 55 full-time staff.

Coun Dilks says the near £2million saving is trifling when the county council under-spent by about £1million a week last year.

He said: “I have to say it’s cultural vandalism what they are doing.

“Lincolnshire has the least educated workforce in the country and we have the lowest number of students who stay on at school to achieve their full educational potential.

“Libraries are important for education, they are not just the hub of communities, which ours is.”

South Holland and The Deepings MP John Hayes has already signed a petition to save the Deepings library and will speak at a public meeting tonight at 7.30pm at Deepings Community Centre.

Coun Dilks, who will chair the meeting, says more than 2,000 people have signed a petition against closure – and once the number hits 3,500 it will force his own council to have its first debate on the issue.

• County bosses refuse to say ‘closure’ while washing their hands of 32 public libraries.

A council press release opened with the words “people are being encouraged to get more involved in Lincolnshire’s library service” and quoted Nick Worth, executive member for libraries, who said: “Despite the need for change, our ambition is to keep all of Lincolnshire’s libraries open.”

Coun Worth continued: “However, this is only going to happen with the support of our local communities.”

If communities don’t volunteer, they will be left with fortnightly mobile library services.

Speaking to the Spalding Guardian, Coun Worth defended the decision to ban protest petitions in libraries, saying the authority wanted people to focus on the consultation and make positive suggestions on how libraries can be run.

Coun Dilks says the council scrutiny committee opposed the consultation document, but the ruling executive put it out regardless.