A private company could end up running all of Lincolnshire County Council’s libraries if the service is put out to competition.
The council is about to start a fresh public consultation on the future of the service following its failed bid to transfer more than 30 libraries to community groups and save around £1.9million.
Council plans to shelve all but 15 of the county’s libraries were thrown back into the melting pot in July when campaigners mounted a judicial review in the High Court in London.
A judge ruled that the authority’s public consultation was flawed – and it had failed to properly look at an expression of interest to run the libraries by a not for profit organisation, Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL).
Libraries campaigner and county councillor Phil Dilks is urging council leaders to keep control of the libraries by using part of a massive cash surplus.
Coun Dilks said: “They have got £40million left over from last year that they took from every ratepayer and didn’t spend – £1.9million is what we are trying to save – and the excess in this one year could keep our libraries running for a generation.
“I am not convinced that you need to have cuts when you have got £40million sitting in the bank that you don’t know what to do with.
“I just want the best possible library service that we can get.”
County executive member for libraries Nick Worth said the new consultation begins in October and will give “people the opportunity to suggest alternative models for a comprehensive and efficient library service”.
He continued: “We will have further discussions with GLL to understand the full potential of their proposals and expect to receive a revised expression of interest from them in October.
“We will consider valid expressions of interest under section 81 of the Localism Act, whether from GLL or elsewhere, in accordance with our formal Community Right to Challenge Scheme.
“The result of receiving a valid expression of interest under the Community Right to Challenge Scheme might be a requirement to put the library service out to competition. In view of this possibility, we will start to make preparations for a possible future procurement process.”
Coun Worth said it is expected the executive will be asked to take a decision on the future of the library service in February.