Library cuts council stashes millions away

Coun Nick Worth.
Coun Nick Worth.

Lincolnshire County Council is under fire for axing libraries while stashing away millions of pounds worth of savings in its coffers.

The county aims to save £2million by shifting 32 libraries into the hands of volunteers, companies or groups.

Coun Phil Dilks - council is stashing millions in reserves.

Coun Phil Dilks - council is stashing millions in reserves.

But Labour county councillor Phil Dilks – who has spearheaded a campaign to save Market Deeping Library – says the council should use some of its savings to protect the libraries, at least for a year.

Around 9,000 protestors from The Deepings were among those signing petitions to force Friday’s full council debate on library cuts, but Coun Dilks said the final decision will still be made by the nine-strong executive rather than the full council.

He said: “Lincolnshire County Council underspent by over £1million every week last year and they had left over £55 million.”

Coun Dilks says around half will go to schools and about £2million will be spent on potholes.

He can’t work out the final figure “because it’s all smoke and mirrors” but believes at least £10million has gone into the council’s reserves.

Coun Dilks said the council’s logic is that there are bigger cuts to come and it has to save money now, but the council could use some of the money to keep the libraries.

The council is keeping 15 libraries and people in The Deepings want Market Deeping Library put on the safe list, which includes Spalding.

Coun Dilks says Market Deeping’s library is in a more highly populated area than some on the safe list and the community isn’t putting forward a volunteer bid to take it over because they want to retain it as a county council run, professionally staffed library.

The councillor, who represents Deeping St James, has already described the council’s plans as “the biggest closure programme that the country has ever seen in 160 years of library provision in this country”.

The council’s consultation on its library plans runs until September 30.

Results will be analysed by Sheffield’s Hallam University, a report will go to the council scrutinies committee in mid-November – when recommendations are expected to be made public for the first time – and the final decision will be made by the executive on December 3.

Coun Nick Worth, executive councillor for libraries, said: “I don’t know what is going to be in the final report. We will just have to wait and see. In the meantime, we are getting a steady stream of expressions of interest.”

He says expressions of interest have been made or are in the pipeline for Holbeach, Donington and Crowland.

Coun Worth said he hasn’t had a chance to catch up with Pinchbeck yet, but people there were very keen a little while ago.