The county council today washed its hands of 32 of Lincolnshire’s smaller libraries – many of which will now be run by volunteers or private concerns.
The decision was taken by the council’s nine strong executive and leaves an uncertain future for Market Deeping Library as no volunteers have stepped forward to run it.
Around 150 library service jobs are expected to be axed.
Deeping St James county councillor Phil Dilks, who has fought hard to save Market Deeping’s Library, sent out a Tweet following the executive’s decision, saying: “Tories just stole our library. Supported of course by the Lib Dem.”
The county council has further extended the deadline for expressions of interest to run libraries affected by the plan, which includes those at Holbeach, Crowland, Donington and Pinchbeck.
Coun Nick Worth, executive member for libraries, said: “So far, we’ve had expressions of interest for 25 existing libraries, as well as seven communities wanting to create brand-new facilities. That means we’re likely to end up with even more static libraries than we started with.
“The council has also extended its deadline for expressions of interest, giving people until the end of January to put in a bid for their local library.”
Communities will receive a comprehensive support package, including more than £5,000 per year to put towards their running costs and ongoing professional advice.
Groups can also get a one-off grant of £15,000 to help set up their facility, with the council maintaining the exterior of the buildings on which it has the freehold.
The council will continue to run the existing libraries at reduced hours for up to a year, giving volunteers plenty of time to lay firm foundations for the future.
Coun Worth said: “One thing that was clear from the consultation was that rural communities valued their mobile services, so 146 more mobile stops were included in the revised proposals.
“Also, younger people said that they wanted to see online services developed further, so that is something we’re going to explore, and we believe it may be possible to increase the number of computers available in our council-run libraries.”
More than 6,000 people took part in the consultation, with the council also receiving letters, emails and petitions.
Coun Worth said: “We realise there were some people who wanted services to remain as they are, but with £2million less to spend that just wasn’t possible.
“However, I’m confident that we can now continue to provide a comprehensive library service across the county, but one that gives much better value for money.
“I’d like to thank all those communities that have offered their support, and I look forward to working with them. I’m sure that together we can create a modern library service that’s tailored to local needs.”
Further information on the plans can be found at www.lincolnshire.gov.uk/librariesconsultation.